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Full text of "Renaissance and Reformation, 1999"

VOLUME XXIII NUMBER 1 WINl'ER 1999 



RENAISSANCE 

AND REFORMATION 




■270 





RENAISSANCE 



VOLUME XXIII NUMERO 



HIVER 1999 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme is published quarterly (February, 
May, August, and November); paraît quatre fois l'an (février, mai, août, et novembre). 

© Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies / Société Canadienne d'Études de la 

Renaissance (CSRS / SCER) 

Pacific Northwest Renaissance Conference (PNWRC) 

Toronto Renaissance and Reformation Colloquium (TRRC) 

Victoria University Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies (CRRS) 

Directeur / Editor 

Richard Hillman (University of Western Ontario) 

Directrice Adjointe 

Diane Desrosiers-Bonin (Université McGill) 

Associate Editor 

David Galbraith (University of Toronto) 

Book Review Editor 

Elizabeth Sauer (Brock University) 

Responsable de la rubrique des livres 
François Rouget (Queen's University) 

Typesetting and Production Services / Typographie et service de production 
Becker Associates 
Toronto, Ontario 

Editorial Board / Conseil de rédaction 

Kenneth R. Bartlett (Toronto) Elaine Limbrick (Victoria) 

André Berthiaume (Laval) Leah Marcus (Texas) 

Peter G. Bietenholz (Saskatchewan) Robert Omstein (Case Western Reserve) 

Jane Couchman (York) François Paré (Guelph) 

Jean Delumeau (Collège de France) François Rigolot (Princeton) 

S.K. Heninger (North Carolina) Paul Stevens (Queen's) 

Judith S. Herz (Concordia) Claude Sutto (Montréal) 

R. Gerald Hobbs (Vancouver School of Theology) Charles Trinkaus (Michigan) 

Alexander Leggatt (Toronto) 

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Abonnements d'un an: 33$ individuel; 45$ institutionnel. 

Rédaction / Editorial Office 

Renaissance et Réforme / 

Renaissance and Reformation / 

Department of English 

University of Western Ontario 

London, Ontario N6A 3K7 

Canada 

Tel. & Fax / Téléphone & Télécopie: (519) 661-3313 

Fax:(519)763-9572 

email / courriel: ren-ref@julian.uwo.ca 

Publication of Renaissance and Reformation is made possible by a grant from the Social 
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la publication de Renaissance et Réforme. 

Winter / hiver 1 999 (date of issue: October 2000 octobre) 




" * Social Sàeim 



New Series, Vol. XXIH, No. 1 Nouvelle Série, Vol. XXm, Nol 

Old Series, Vol. XXXV, No. 1 1 999 Ancienne Série, Vol. XXXV, No 1 




CONTENTS / SOMMAIRE 



EDITORIAL 

3 

ARTICLES 

Reforming the Tudor Dialogue: A Case Study 

by Seymour Baker House 

5 

On First Looking into Lumley's Euripides 
by Patricia Demers 

25 

Le Dialogo de la hella creanza de le donne (1539) 

d' Alessandro Piccolomini et ses adaptateurs français 

par Claude La Charité 

43 

Celebrating Difference: The Self as Double in the Works of Louise Labé 

by Catherine M. Miiller 
59 

BOOK REVIEWS/COMPTES RENDUS 

Marie le Jars de Goumay, Les Advis, ou, les Presens 

de la Demoiselle de Goumay 1641, vol. I; 

Marie de Goumay, Le Promenoir de Monsieur de Montaigne. 

Texte de 1641, avec les variantes des éditions de 1594, 1595, 1598, 1599, 

1607, 1623, 1626, 1627, 1634 
recensés par Cathleen M. Bauschatz 

73 



Mary B. McKinley. Les Terrains vagues des Essais. Itinéraires et intertextes 

recensé par Michel Liddle 
76 

Leah S. Marcus. Unediting the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton 

reviewed by Dale Churchward 
78 

Laurie E. Maguire. Shakespearean Suspect Texts: The "Bad'* Quartos 

and Their Contexts 

reviewed by Randall Martin 

81 

Philip Beitchman. Alchemy of the Word: Cabala of the Renaissance 

reviewed by Robert M. Schuler 
83 

Hilary Gatti. Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science 

reviewed by Ian McAdam 

86 

Emmanuel Paye. Philosophie et perfection de V homme: 

de la Renaisssance à Descartes 

recensé par Peter Sharratt 

88 

BOOKNOTES/NOTES DE LECTURE 

Michel Jeanneret. Perpetuum Mobile. Métamorphoses 

des corps et des oeuvres de Vinci à Montaigne 

recensé par François Rouget 

95 

Walter S. H. Lim. The Arts of Empire: 

The Poetics of Colonialism from Ralegh to Milton 

reviewed by Balachandra Rajan 

95 

Patrick Cheney. Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, 

Spenser, Counter-Nationhood 

reviewed by Brian Patton 

96 



Editorial 



As regular readers will know from 
the previous column on this page, 
François Paré has now retired from the 
editorship he has held for many years. 
My first Editorial is clearly an occasion 
for acknowledgements, and these must 
begin with thanks to François himself 
for his unfailingly judicious steward- 
ship, which substantially strengthened 
an already-flourishing institution. It will 
not be easy to match his devotion to 
promoting the interests of the journal — 
its integrity, its need to evolve, and, of 
necessity, its financial well-being. Cer- 
tainly, I share his sense of its unique 
place in Renaissance studies, as a widely 
interdisciplinary and international pub- 
lication, solidly based in Canada and 
functioning in both Canadian official 
languages. More personally, I am grate- 
ful to François for the wise counsel and 
invaluable practical guidance that he 
has generously volunteered over a long 
period of transition. 

Readers can expect substantial conti- 
nuity in our policies and operations. But 
this is inevitably, too, a time for renewal. 
Apart from the new administrative 
responsibilities previously announced, 
there have been changes in the editorial 
board. Particular gratitude for past con- 
tributions is due to the two long-stand- 
ing members now leaving: David 
Hoeniger and A. Kent Hieatt. I am also 
grateful for the willingness of three dis- 
tinguished scholars to join us: Alexander 
Leggatt (University of Toronto), 
François Rigolot (Princeton University) 
— and François Paré (University of 
Guelph). 



Finally, I extend sincere thanks, as 
well, to the University of Western 
Ontario, especially the office of the 
Vice-President (Research), the Faculty 
of Arts, and the Department of English, 
for materially supporting the establish- 
ment of a new editorial office. 



Comme le savent déjà nos lecteurs 
habituels par T Editorial précédent, 
François Paré vient de quitter le poste de 
directeur qu'il a rempli avec beaucoup 
de distinction pendant plusieurs années. 
À l'occasion de cette relève, je tiens à 
adresser plusieurs remerciements, tout 
d' abord à François pour son inestimable 
contribution. Grâce à ses efforts tou- 
jours judicieux, la revue, qui jouissait 
déjà d'une excellente réputation, s'a- 
vère maintenant encore plus forte. J'ai- 
merais bien suivre son exemple en 
mettant toujours en valeur le bien-être 
de la revue, ainsi que son intégrité et son 
besoin d'évolution, tout en n'oubliant 
pas sa santé financière. Je partage l'avis 
de François sur la place particulière et 
unique de Renaissance et Réforme dans 
les études de la Renaissance: la revue est 
largement multidisciplinaire et interna- 
tionale avec une base solide au Canada; 
elle fonctionne dans les deux langues 
officielles de ce pays. Personnellement, 
je dois à François un remerciement par- 
ticulier pour son aide et ses conseils 
généreux et utiles pendant la longue pé- 
riode de transition. 

Nos lecteurs peuvent compter sur une 
continuité générale en ce qui concerne 
l'esprit et la gestion de la revue. Toutefois 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 1 (1999) /3 



quelques changements de personnel, 
outre ceux de nature administrative déjà 
annoncés, sont à signaler: nous 
remercions pour leur long service 
distingué deux membres sortant du con- 
seil de rédaction, David Hoeniger et A. 
Kent Hieatt; nous accueillons trois 
chercheurs connus qui ont bien voulu 
accepter l'invitation de se joindre à 
nous, à savoir Alexander Leggatt (Uni- 
versity of Toronto), François Rigolot 



(Princeton University) — et François 
Paré (University of Guelph). 

Pour conclure, je tiens aussi à 
remercier sincèrement 1' University of 
Western Ontario, en particulier le 
bureau du Vice-Président (Recherche), 
la Faculté des Arts et le Département 
d'Anglais, pour leur aide matérielle 
avec la mise à disposition et 
l'équipement d'un bureau pour la 
rédaction. 



Reforming the Tudor 
Dialogue: A Case Study 



SEYMOUR 

BAKER 

HOUSE 



Summary: This case study assesses the implications of rhetorical style in 
dialogues by Thomas Becon and his contemporary, Desiderius Erasmus. 
Becon imitated an Erasmian theme but rejected Erasmus's classically ori- 
ented rhetoric and the epistemology it advanced. Instead, he used the 
dialogue form as a vehicle for what is primarily an oral (homiletic) exhor- 
tation, which reveals a profoundly different approach to the pursuit of truth 
and illustrates the widening cultural gap between moderate and radical 
religious reformers. 



In the summer of 1543, Thomas Becon stood at Paul's Cross in London and 
publicly recanted his heretical views. After making several specific retrac- 
tions, he cut up his books and renounced their contents. Becon, a priest, had 
recanted two years earlier for seditious preaching, after which he had 
adopted the disguise of lay garb to shield him from episcopal attention. In 
1542, he began to write rather than preach, publishing at least nine separate 
works under the pseudonym of Thomas Basil before the authorities collared 
him again. One of the books he abjured was his popular A Christmas 
bankette,^ the first of seven dialogues Becon wrote between 1542 and 1562. 
This dialogue bears a signal resemblance to Erasmus's colloquy A Godly 
Feast (Convivium religiosum): similarities in theme, setting, and even the 
names of the characters suggest that Becon had Erasmus's text as his model. 
This in itself is not notable: Becon was schooled in the early 1520s, a time 
when Erasmus's Colloquies were taught to those who, like Becon, studied 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 1 (1999) /5 



6 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Latin composition. What is remarkable is how Becon adapts the dialogue to 
reflect his view of the way in which laymen encounter Scripture. 

Erasmus's colloquy demonstrates how the intellect is trained through 
dialectical inquiry, and suggests that through this training we appropriate 
Christian virtue. Becon works according to a profoundly different herme- 
neutic. His dialogue functions like a sermon in print, asserting that the power 
of the Word alone effects conversion. Ironically, although Becon's dialogue, 
appearing hand-in-hand with a vernacular Scripture, addresses the issue of 
lay exegesis, in fact it leaves uninstructed laymen with little means by which 
they might resolve the problems attendant upon reading the Bible for 
themselves. This article will argue that Becon's A Christmas hankette rejects 
the generic strengths of the dialogue, as seen in Erasmus's example, because, 
paradoxically for an author and an exegete, Becon favoured preaching over 
dialectic as a medium for our encounter with the Word. 

Erasmus originally wrote his colloquies for his young Parisian pupils 
in the closing years of the fifteenth century. These were later collected and 
published (without Erasmus's blessing) in several editions in 15 1 8. In March 
1519, Erasmus oversaw the publication of a corrected edition, and he added 
to this collection from time to time. By his death in 1536, over one hundred 
editions had been published. Additional colloquies first appeared in the 1522 
edition: like the earlier works, they served as models of Latin eloquence, but 
these new dialogues showed "an increasing tendency to ridicule religious 
abuses," which doubtless led to the censure of the collection by the Sorbonne 
in 1526.2 

The colloquy known as A Godly Feast was among those first added in 
the 1522 edition. In it, nine laymen discuss various passages of Scripture, 
the relationship between pagan and Christian learning, and the benefits of 
culture. The dialogue form allowed Erasmus to present challenging obser- 
vations through his characters while preserving a certain protective distance 
from those observations, leaving the reader to infer where his true sentiments 
lay. In A Godly Feast, it is just as important to pay attention to the setting 
and action as it is to note the unfolding argument, for frequently (and at times 
ironically) action underscores speech. Particularly important too is the 
egalitarian nature of the discussion, where many views are aired: the reader 
is invited to go beyond the literal sense in order to participate more fully in 
the issues raised. 

English reformers were attracted to the popularity and authority of 
Erasmus and began to publish translations of his more controversial collo- 



Seymour Baker House / Reforming the Tudor Dialogue / 7 



quies as early as 1534: translations of Pietas puerilis and Funus appeared in 
1534; two editions of Exequiae seraphicae were printed between 1534 and 
1536; and an anonymous translation of Perigrinatio religionis ergo appeared 
circa 1536 with a non-Erasmian preface ridiculing monks.^ By and large 
these early translations preserved the wit and rhetorical appeal of their 
originals, and were bought by the same sophisticated readership as pur- 
chased the Latin originals — i.e., readers capable of sorting through the 
complex texts. Thus they never circulated as widely as their translators had 
hoped. 

With the publication of an official English Bible in 1538, new readers 
joined the book-buying public, and this presented problems for those who 
would adapt Erasmus's complex hermeneutic to the English situation of the 
1540s. Erasmian texts explicitly addressed the need for religious change but 
many contained material unsuited to the radical reformers in England — 
classical allusions, an insistence on community, linguistic subtleties, a holis- 
tic approach to learning predicated on the ability to assist an inward conver- 
sion through training of the intellect and will. In addition to these problems, 
reformers who would adapt Erasmian texts faced the fact that the level of 
sophistication among the reading public had fallen as the base broadened. 
Particularly telling in this regard is the admission by Caius that his rendering 
of Erasmus's De vera theologia was "not in the ful as the authore made it, 
but abbreuiate . . . Leuyng out many subtile thinges, made rather for great 
and learned diuines, then for others.'"^ Some reformers, such as Richard 
Tavemer, tried to adapt Erasmus's catholic humanism to the new protestant 
theology in the late 1530s, but the problem of audience remained too knotty 
for most: after all, Erasmus's readers were learned and many were human- 
ists; popular writers had a much less homogeneous readership. This gulf, 
between those who could digest Latin texts (even if only in translation) and 
those newly literate English readers searching for simple guidance to the 
Scriptures, was not easily bridged.^ 

In the sixteenth century, the dialogue itself was evolving away from the 
classical models into what one critic has called an "anti-genre."^ Since 
classical times, the dialogue had always depended not on authority but on 
persuasion, and had included elements of setting, characterization, and even 
humour in its arsenal. Commenting on the Platonic dialogue, Curley notes 
that "the argument itself seems to lead nowhere. An examination of the 
dramatic action, however, often leads to an understanding of the point of the 
dialogue."'' The complex relationship among various verbal, dramatic, and 



8 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



ludic elements in the dialogue required an especially well-trained reader to 
decode. 

Erasmus relished multiple levels of meaning and exploited them in his 
Colloquies. The very fact that he began to incorporate controversial material 
in works originally meant for a juvenile readership is evidence of this: it is 
highly unlikely that the resonating "Saint Socrates, pray for us!" in A Godly 
Feast was meant to strike adult clerics in the same way as it might an aspiring 
adolescent Latinist. But it is important to note that even when multiple 
readerships are expected, the colloquies maintain a literary and stylistic unity 
in which one level functions simultaneously within another. 

The varying levels at which a complex text such as an Erasmian 
dialogue functions led Erasmus to accept the same technique of dis simulatio 
he assumed Jerome had used to buttress the appeal of the classics for 
Christians. Even beyond Jerome lay fertile ground for cultivating the idea 
that concealing was part of God's plan: the Incarnation itself was a sort of 
allegory, requiring human elucidation.^ By posing puzzles, Erasmus was 
able to teach his readers not merely what to think but how to think. There 
was, then, an ethical dimension to reading a dialogue which encompassed 
the rhetorical, the exegetical, and the grammatical but transcended them all. 
As Allan Bloom said in the preface to his translation of Plato's Republic 
(1968), "[Dialogues] are meant to perform the function of a living teacher 
who makes his students think, who knows which ones should be led further 
and which ones should be kept away from mysteries. . . . One must philos- 
ophize to understand them."^ Dialogues were meant to enable readers to 
understand issues without recourse to mere authority. 

The sixteenth-century development of an anti-genre dialogue empha- 
sized the suasive elements over the conventional features (decorum) of the 
dialogue. Stemming from the publication of Agricola's De inventione 
dialectica in 1515, dialogues were conceived as dialectical exercises that 
"refused to recognize any distinction between the categories of logical 
analysis and the commonplaces of rhetorical tradition."^^ What this meant 
in practice was that writers resorted to various rhetorical devices (humour, 
satire, irony) more frequently than they had in the past to affect their readers 
in order to delight and instruct. Erasmus's Colloquies stands as the supreme 
example of this tendency. The efficacy of his exposition and argumentation, 
in short, his ability to combine dialectic with persuasion, is what gave 
Erasmus his great popularity, and why his style of dialogue was widely 
imitated. 



Seymour Baker House /Reforming the Tudor Dialogue / 9 



In A Godly Feast, Erasmus introduces us to nine characters in a peaceful 
rural villa who meet together on the invitation of the host to discover whether 
learned conversation can prove fruitful outside the cultured atmosphere of 
the city. This challenge, the piece's inventio (or discovery that initiates the 
topic), arises naturally in a conversation between the host (Eusebius) and his 
older friend Timothy, who argues that Socrates preferred cities to fields 
because only in cities could one learn. Eusebius asserts that learning is 
possible in a more natural setting so the two friends arrange a meal during 
which they will test this theory. The inventio establishes the dialogue's 
verisimilitude — one of the important features of Erasmus's rhetorical 
strategy, without which dialogue becomes the sort of scholastic dialectic he 
despised.^* In addition, it raises the issue of man's relation to the natural 
world — itself an important theme in the dialogue. 

When the guests arrive, Eusebius gives them a leisurely tour of his 
gardens and repeatedly indicates that variety in nature and in men is some- 
thing to be praised rather than deplored. ^^ Himself an example of the role of 
cultivation and education in harnessing this variety, Eusebius is a master at 
training the different plants and birds, even those from other climes, to thrive 
under his care.^^ In his view, the natural world gives us an opportunity to 
realize God's plan. Because Scripture is the primary text of that plan, 
Eusebius has given Scriptural tags to prominent features of his garden. ^"^ His 
gatekeeper is Saint Peter, who welcomes them with trilingual Biblical 
inscriptions; his fountain symbolizes "that unique fountain which refreshes 
with its heavenly stream all those who labor and are heavy laden . . . 
according to the Psalmist"; and his artificial improvements ("an artistic 
deception") suggest man's ability to share Nature's bounty through inven- 
tiveness.^^ The combined spectacle presents a feast for the eye and a lesson 
for the beholder — "A wonderful variety, and nothing inactive, nothing that's 
not doing or saying something."^^ But if Scripture is the text par excellence 
of God's plan, it is not the only one. Many of the lessons are drawn from 
classical wisdom, and their inscriptions carry the scent of Erasmus's 
Adage s.^'^ 

Attention to the literal level of the argument is not always the only way 
in which the dialogue speaks a humanist message. Erasmus's rhetorical 
method, resting on appraisal of character, is clear in this exchange between 
Timothy and Eusebius concerning the relative merits of a painted garden: 

Timothy: Yet it isn't fragrant. 

Eusebius: But on the other hand it needs no attention. 



10 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Timothy: It pleases only the eye. 

Eusebius: True, but it does this forever. 

Timothy: A picture, too, grows old. 

Eusebius: Yes, but it's longer lived than we are, and age commonly adds to it a grace 

we lose. 

18 

Timothy: I wish you were wrong about that. 

Eusebius tailors his discussion with Timothy, well on in years and the oldest 
of the party, towards a conclusion he knows will be particularly persuasive 
for him — the question of longevity. Each speaker in this exchange speaks 
the truth, and only through the art of rhetoric can Eusebius put an end to 
differences. Note, too, that Timothy is a model learner, preferring to 
acknowledge Eusebius 's point rather than stubbornly insist on his own 
preferences out of pride. 

The introductory tour presents various (but hardly discordant) views on 
the state of Nature, its relationship to man's efforts to improve upon what he 
finds there, the overriding importance of Christian revelation and the medi- 
ation by Scripture between the created and the eternal. Throughout the tour 
we see consensus and even wisdom achieved through realistic dialectic. Also 
notable is the repeated emphasis on variety throughout the early part of this 
dialogue — a way of suggesting that consensus or even uniformity is not 
always attainable. 

When the party moves indoors for the meal, Eusebius invites the 
household boy to read a passage from Proverbs before they eat, and explic- 
itly commends this monastic practice for lay Christians, since it will give 
them something better to discuss than the usual "silly, bawdy stories." ^^ 
Notable are the boy's literacy and his inclusion in the scene, as well as 
Timothy's recommendation, which echoes the theme of training and culti- 
vation seen in the examples of Eusebius's husbandry, that "Nothing is more 
advisable . . . than to habituate ourselves to what is excellent." And while 
Scripture is offered as "seasoning" (and not the only possible seasoning, as 
Timothy points out), it in fact becomes another meal in itself. ^^ 

The way in which Scripture becomes metaphorical food lies at the 
dialogue's core. Not content merely to hear the Word, Eusebius wishes there 
were a theologian present to help them understand it. Timothy suggests that 
laymen may discuss Scripture, "provided they're cautious about passing 
judgment." So a round of exegetical discussions begins, undertaken cau- 
tiously by the assembled laymen, trusting Christ's promise of assistance 
wherever "two men are gathered together in his name."^^ Instrumental in 
this model are its collaborative (or dialectical) nature and the assurance that 



Seymour Baker House /Reforming the Tudor Dialogue / 1 1 



exegesis is indeed a proper activity for well-meaning laymen. Unquestioned 
is the assumption that a certain amount of discussion is necessary to under- 
stand the Word well enough for it to bear fruit in this world. 

The first step in discussing a pericope on the nature of royal authority, 
Eusebius points out, is to discard, for the moment, the "various conjectures 
of commentators".^^ Unencumbered by learned complexities, he is free to 
present what appears to him to be the "moral" sense — in other words, the 
sense most accessible and open. With a minimum of self-conscious erudi- 
tion, he explains the figurative passages with analogies drawn from nature 
and preserved in classical literature. By buttressing his reading with support 
drawn from other Scriptural passages, Eusebius engages in a practice he later 
explicitly commends — comparing Scripture with Scripture — and finishes 
his discussion with another appeal to proper training as the best way of 
establishing right behaviour and of inculcating virtue.^^ Throughout the 
exegesis, he answers questions raised by his listeners and invites their 
responses. In this way the discussion moves naturally from topic to topic. 

Eusebius is followed by Timothy, who discusses the allegorical sense 
of the passage,^^ and he is followed by Sophronius, who draws attention to 
the doctrinal issues implied by the passage. By this time, four examples of 
Scriptural exegesis have been presented as models, and the company pauses 
for its second course (which allows Eusebius to inject some barbed Biblical 
levity at the expense of celibates — "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's 
sake"^^ — linking them with the capons he is serving). When they resume, 
Eusebius praises the value of the dialectical method they are employing, 
whereby even mistakes afford "an opportunity of finding the answer." 
Erasmus's belief that public debate and eventual agreement reveal the 
guiding presence of the Spirit here opposes the suggestion by Luther and 
other protestant writers, including Becon, that clarity and understanding are 
produced not by public or semi-public debate but through the infusion of 
grace in the individual by faith. ^^ When his turn comes to lead the discussion, 
Theophilus (who knows Greek, as well as Hebrew) employs a wide variety 
of exegetical tools: appeal to Hebrew idioms, historicist or contextual 
criticism, and etymology. Any lay reader seeking guidance on the most 
fruitful ways of appropriating the teachings of Scripture has here the com- 
plete catalogue of methods. 

The action in the dialogue affords ample opportunity for Erasmus to 
build on the verbal arguments presented. Using a motto on a wine cup as the 
inventio which initiates a new round of discussions, Eulalius (good Christian 



12 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



that he is, he has been pondering the Pauline passage "a good long while") 
admits that Scripture is not as easy to interpret as some might claim. In 
explaining his perplexity, he mentions the "tone" of the passage, which he 
tries to reconcile with its immediate and proximate contexts. His explanation 
of the conflicting interpretations encompasses Stoic teaching,^^ Corinthian 
praxis, the proposed (opposing) solutions of Saint Ambrose and Theo- 
phylact, as well as various other Pauline passages — obviously, he is a rather 
learned layman. But the methods he employs are all standard exegetical 
methods, so the fact that he is able to do this from memory after years of 
pondering the problem need not startle us. What is startling is the group's 
response. After listening to the difficulties in the passage, they conclude that 
such learned questioning needs no assistance, and let the matter drop. 

Two important issues emerge from the discussion of the Corinthian 
pericope. The first is that laymen, following established principles of exe- 
gesis, including appeal to the commentators (both Greek and Latin, of 
course), can legitimately and even fruitfully discuss Scriptural passages, 
even passages that perplexed the Fathers. The second, and more astonishing, 
point is that there is no resolution offered: the host simply affirms the ability 
of Eulalius to answer his own questions. The discussion on that pericope 
stops, and the action moves on. Erasmus's model of process rather than 
closure trusts that the very grappling with Scripture is itself rewarding. 

Finally, at the close of the dialogue, the host distributes gifts emblematic 
of humanist themes (clocks, pens, classical and Scriptural texts), and leaves 
the villa to perform works of mercy — rounding out the exegetical "feast" 
with an affirmation of good works. Physical and spiritual nourishment have 
now come full circle, as the host extends the benefits of his inner conversion 
to others in the world beyond his table. 

This much is patent from a reading of A Godly Feast: insofar as it is an 
effective rhetorical composition, it shows that actions and dialogue must 
arise spontaneously, so that an appearance of reality is cultivated in which 
authentic philosophical and ethical questions are aired. Further, the dialogue 
presents a model of exegetical method through a practical discussion of 
actual problems in interpretation. And finally, good deeds are shown to be 
the fruit of learning, just as the bountiful garden is the result of cultivation. 

Erasmus's more controversial views in the colloquy are less patent. 
Although Eusebius acknowledges that "Sacred Scripture is of course the 
basic authority in everything,"^^ he also claims that much of the classical 
view on virtue is in perfect harmony with Christian teaching and even 



Seymour Baker House /Reforming the Tudor Dialogue / 13 



supersedes corrupt Christian practices, a view shared by Chrysoglottus in 
his criticism of the popular acceptance of ceremonies over a "more interior" 
means of achieving true Christian life.^^ Part of Erasmus's "hidden" message 
pertains to the relationship between nature and man — between the visible 
and the invisible, the spirit and the body — as mediated by Christ and the 
Scriptures. ^^ And finally, issues of linguistic fidelity critical for accurate 
Scriptural exegesis, yet likewise hidden from those who do not know Hebrew 
or Greek, are hinted at in Eulalius's analysis of 1 Corinthians 6:12, where 
he explains the pericope in terms that preserve the Greek echoes of the 
original — something Erasmus himself presents in his Annotations?^ 
Erasmus's like-minded readers (whether adult or adolescent) would surely 
appreciate the deeper significance of these features. 

Becon's A Christmas bankette displays striking similarities with 
Erasmus's dialogue. Guests arrive, and the host Philemon takes them on a 
tour of his house, pointing out inscriptions that admonish the beholders 
toward Christian faith and action. Two of the guests share names with 
characters in Erasmus's dialogue, and all of the names recall Greek or Latin 
church fathers, despite Becon's very English setting. Significantly, the 
banquet that follows is solely metaphoric: Philemon lectures on the cultiva- 
tion of Christian virtue, but there is no meal. Nature is not part of the feast. 

Despite many outward similarities, crucial differences remain which 
suggest that, although he adopted the outward form of Erasmus's dialogue, 
Becon ignores unique characteristics of the genre discussed earlier in con- 
nection with Erasmus's composition: discovery through dialectic and the 
presentation of truth through persuasive rhetoric. In place of dialectic and 
rhetoric — both of which build on man's natural capacities for reason and 
persuasion — Becon relies on Scripture's ability to imprint itself directly on 
the hearts of those who receive it faithfully. 

From the opening scene of Becon's dialogue, his departures from the 
genre's conventions are clear. When the dialogue begins, the host is speak- 
ing, but he is alone, since the guests have yet to arrive and there is no servant 
mentioned. In this unliterary way (there is no attempt at an inventio), we 
learn that guests have been invited but that "before we fede our hungrye 
bodyes, we shoulde sustayne & fede also our hungry soules"^^ with the word 
of God. Once the discussion of the inscriptions begins, naturalness is 
replaced by indoctrination. Leaving aside the predictability of his inscrip- 
tions^^ and their at times improbable length, Philemon's passion for sur- 
rounding himself with Biblical decoration raises questions of credibility. On 



14 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



his virginals, Philemon has written, "The eye hath not sene, nor the eare hath 
not hearde, neyther hath it entred into the harte of man, that God hath 
prepared for them that loue hym," which, he says, is meant to remind us that 
the sound of this instrument is "vayne and fedeth [y]e eare for a lytle whyle": 
it is nothing compared to the "celestiall melodye" awaiting us in heaven.^"^ 
One might wonder why, with this attitude, Philemon owns the instrument at 
all. The incipient Puritanism for which Becon is noted also expresses itself 
in Philemon's views on images. Replete with examples of the written Word, 
the house is devoid of paintings, in stark contrast with the villa in Erasmus's 
dialogue. Philemon himself is an austere host, in defiance of Tudor norms 
of hospitality, subjecting his guests to long lecturing without offering them 
anything to eat or drink until he has finished. 

Effective dialectic requires skilled questioning. In Erasmus's dialogue, 

the guests provide easily half of the conversation, and because they are as 

fully informed as the host, they steer it into unpredictable (and certainly 

unforeseen) but nonetheless fruitful areas. In Becon's work, Philemon's 

guests are tightly restricted: their contributions vary only slightly — from 

simple questions to questions of startling naïveté.^^ In the more than 50 pages 

of dialogue, the conversation is relentlessly driven by Philemon, as he 

exposes his guests to the dishes he has prepared. Their few queries are always 

mticipated by the host, and his answers, without exception, remain unchal- 

enged. In no case does any guest provide reasoning or material that furthers 

he discussion or uncovers something previously hidden. Quite literally, they 

ire his audience. 

The lack of verisimilitude generates confusion and contradiction. While 
ve might accept that Englishmen bear Greek or Latinate names, the point of 
uch exotic nomenclature, which suggests grounding in patristic learning or 
amiliarity with Biblical sources, is lost when we realize that the bearers of 
hese names are illiterate, even in English. Both Theophilus and Eusebius 
lave to ask what is written on various objects. ^^ In each case, Philemon 
upplies the reading. Beyond this, even the most basic Christian tenets come 
s surprises to them. Eusebius has never heard of original sin; both Eusebius 
nd Theophilus have to ask, "What moued God to be so beneficiall vnto vs, 
eyng we had offen so greuously, & were than by no meanes able to pacify 
lis wrath with ony good work?"; and Christopher, being informed (for the 
Irst time?) by Philemon that "ye are not able of your selues to recouer youre 
nnocency, that ye lost by Adam," cries out in near-comic bewilderment, 
*Alas, what is now to be done?"^^ And lest we explain this naïveté as part 



Seymour Baker House /Reforming the Tudor Dialogue / 15 



of Becon's polemical message (i.e., that in truth they had not been living in 
a Christian country but rather in a country that had drifted away from 
Christianity), we note that they are familiar at times with conventional 
Biblical stories, while both Theophilus and Christopher link knowledge of 
Christ and his laws with obedience to the king and the maintenance of good 
household order in a most conventional (suspiciously official) manner.^^ 

These inconsistencies, troubling as they are, are lessened if we imagine 
for a moment that Becon's readers were men — householders — similar to 
his characters, and that literary stylistics were of little consequence where 
matters of faith and governance were concerned. In this perspective, 
Philemon's catechetical feast suggests that Becon's readers were meant to 
see themselves first as recipients then as repeaters of the lessons in A 
Christmas bankette. Evidence to support this reading of the dialogue is 
plentiful. After the tour of inscriptions is over, Philemon shows his guests 
two "great tables" (i.e., tablets) hanging in his dining room and explains that 
one is a table of the ten commandments "which teacheth vs what we ought 
to do, & what to exchew" and that the other is a table depicting 

the offyces of al degrees and estates. It teacheth vs what we owe to oure mooste noble 
Prince, to oure parentes, & to all superioures. In this table euery man from the hyghest 
degre to the lowest may learne his offyce & duety. Therfore are these two tables redde 
euery daye openlye in my house, my wife, & chyldren, w/r/i all my semantes beyng 
called thereunto. ... If any of my houshold transgresse any percel of gods law, he is 
brought streightwaye to these tables, and by them is his faut declared vnto hym. So that 
hereby he taketh an occasion to amende his lyfe, & to be f/ie more circumspecte & ware, 
that he falleth not agayne into the, synne afterward. This is tht order of my house.' 

So much for rhetoric: relationships can be schematized and displayed, and 
transgressions can be rectified, by mere reference to the scheme. After the 
revelation that Philemon's household functions ideally owing to his good 
government and the presence of the tables, in one of the longest contributions 
by a guest in the whole dialogue, Theophilus praises the benefits that will 
accrue to all and sundry when "all householders . . . take an example of you. 
Would God thai many seyng this your acte, would in lyke maner folow it in 
euery condicion, gamyshyng theyr houses with holy scriptures, & trayning 
theyr lyues accordynge to the same. Oh what a florysshynge realme than 
shoulde we haue?"^^ Such a top-down model of good order ignores true 
dialectic, and places the host (householder) in the role of mediator between 
God and man, or, in this case, between Scripture and the household. In fact, 
householder becomes preacher. 



16 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Thus far in the dialogue the guests have been treated only to an 
exposition of the inscriptions, which, it seems, are sufficient in themselves 
to instill good order in the household. The various husbandmen have pro- 
fessed themselves convinced that the example of Philemon's house will 
serve equally well — unchanged — in their own. Gone is the art of adapting 
the message to the listener, and gone is the acknowledgment of variety. 

Yet the guests cannot effect a change in their households, as Philemon 
has done in his, without first experiencing a change in themselves. Having 
already displayed a profound ignorance of Christian teaching, they must 
somehow become like Philemon himself if they are to aid in the spiritual 
transformation of their households. Their education and conversion occur in 
the second half of the dialogue, where they are treated to four lectures on the 
Christian faith, structured so as to expose their dependence on God and to 
elicit their thankful repentance. If Erasmus's dialogue emphasizes change 
through adaptation and long practice, Becon's stresses near-instantaneous 
conversion. 

What follows is a standard assembly of Scriptural passages showing 
man's inability to achieve salvation without faith. The first dish sets the tone: 
"Cursed is the erth in theyr worke. It shall brynge forth vnto thee thomes & 
brymbles.'"** This strong theme of contemptus mundi runs throughout the 
rest of the dialogue, emphasizing our depravity and the debasement of nature 
as consequences of the Fall. Instead of an eloquent garden with its promise 
that we can improve upon the created world through our own efforts, in 
Becon we find a "vale of misery."^^ 

Given the sola Scriptura hermeneutic and the disparagement of reason, 
it is no surprise that Philemon's exegesis consists solely in citing Scripture 
to support his assertions. Some figurative language is explained, and some 
doctors are cited,"*^ but Philemon's main technique is overwhelming repeti- 
tion. To support a typical point on election by God as the sole path to 
salvation, Philemon heaps up nine Scriptural passages, each keyed (however 
loosely) to the theme of works, justification, or choosing."^ Questions 
provoke new proof-texts: when Theophilus asks, "But how shall we know, 
whan we truly repent on such maner, that it prouoketh God to be mercyfull 
to vs?," Philemon launches into another lengthy catena of passages."^^ 

Faced with the austerity of this dialogue, where were Becon's readers 
to turn? The dialogue's exegetical method — citing Scripture to elucidate 
Scripture — is of limited use, since none of Philemon's guests (and presum- 
ably few of Becon's lay contemporaries) could move as easily through the 



Seymour Baker House /Reforming the Tudor Dialogue / 17 



Scriptures as does the host. Philemon's explanations also lack the linguistic 
basis on which Tyndale and other well-schooled reformers grounded their 
doctrinal observations. And while the dialogue form generally presents 
readers with various characters (or viewpoints) with whom they could 
identify, Becon's readers are in a more complex situation than usual. They 
clearly cannot identify too closely with the guests, since the guests are 
illiterate but the dialogue was printed. To identify with the host would be to 
claim the host's remarkable Scriptural and patristic learning, as seems 
incongruous for the purchaser of a cheap and quite unliterary dialogue. The 
most likely scenario has already been mentioned — that the readers of 
Becon's dialogue were themselves householders whose responsibility 
toward their household impelled them to seek some form of rudimentary 
catechetical aid at a time of considerable theological uncertainty. The closest 
examples to hand for Becon, when preparing such an aid, were his sermons. 

That Becon's dialogue is in fact a sermon is supported by several 
features. Most importantly, his catenae of Scriptural passages are invariably 
triggered by the most simple verbal suggestions. Moreover, Philemon's 
argument is abbreviated to the point of absurdity: no attempt is made to shape 
a convincing line of reasoning around the quotes. Take, for example, the list 
of twelve uninterrupted Scriptural and patristic passages offered in support 
of the doctrine of original sin. If we omit the Scriptural material itself, what 
remains is quite stark: "We reade in the fourth boke of Esdras the third chap, 
on this wyse . . . "; "Also Ose the Prophète sayeth . . ."; "sayth S. Jerome, 
vpon this texte . . . "; "But I wyll reherse to you more scriptures . . . "; "Christ 
also sayeth . . . "; "Agayne . . . "; "Also in an other place . . . "; "S. Paule 
also sayeth . . . "; "Agayne . . . "; "In another place also he sayth 
. . . "; "Therefore Dauid confesseth that . . . "; "And saynte Paule affyrmeth 
playnelye that. . . . "^ There is no argument, as one might expect in a 
dialogue, despite the presence of Philemon's unearned "Therefore" before a 
quote from the Psalms and his suggestion that the final Pauline quote 
"affyrmeth" the others. The point of the catena becomes clear as Philemon 
asks, "What say ye nowe my frendes, do ye not nowe at the laste perceyue 
that the synne of Adam hath condemned vs all, so thai his synne is our synne," 
to which Christopher, speaking for the guests, acknowledges that they both 
see it and believe it."^^ The Word, unadorned and baldly stated, has done its 
job through the preacher. 

Other features confirm a profound rhetorical and conceptual distance 
between speaker (Philemon) and audience (guests/readers). Philemon fre- 



18 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



quently addresses his guests as an undifferentiated group standing apart from 
himself — "do ye not nowe at the last perceyue"; "we haue learned what ye 
are"; "Therefore must ye co/i fesse yourselues to be that in dede, which ye 
are, thai is, very synners . . . "^^ — and emphasizes his directing control over 
the group, as they move from one "dish" to the next. In conventionally 
oratorical style, at the close of the dialogue Philemon says he will "gather 
togyther in few wordes that which hytherto I haue dispersed in many, that 
they may the more easly remayne in your brest,"^^ further emphasizing the 
teaching function of his lecture. In addition, Becon's heavy reliance on 
patristic sermons rather than theological works supports the homiletic nature 
of his approach. 

In Becon's work, reason and dialectic, rhetoric and persuasion, are 
compromised in favour of an approach based on the power of the Word, 
presented through the sermon, to effect change of life. The immediacy of 
preaching a sermon imposes a different structure than does the writing of a 
dialogue. This structuring is chronological, with emotion succeeding emo- 
tion until the required intensity (and commitment) is reached. In the first half 
of the dialogue, the need for order is established. In the second half, the 
means of attaining that order are presented. Thus, in the second half, 
Philemon establishes the general condition of humanity, in which natural 
variety is subsumed by universal depravity; this means that only through 
Christ will our deliverance come, not through our own efforts. He goes on 
to tell his guests that belief in Christ and the subsequent repentance such 
belief entails comprise the only way. To underscore the conversion that 
genuine belief carries with it, Becon then presents the following emotional 
crescendo: 

Eusebius: Tliis is the moost pleasaunt dysshe that euer I tasted. 
Theophilus: These thynges that you haue spoken vnto vs are so confortable that me 
thynke, I am nowe enflamed & more set on fyre than euer I was before. 
Christopher: As I maye vnfaynedly reporte vnto you the affect of my herte, verely syns 
that ye declared to vs the goodnes of God the father toward vs thorow Jesus christ I haue 
felte in my herte such an earnest fayth & bumynge loue towarde God and his worde, 
that me thynke a thousande fyres coulde not piucke me away from the loue of hym. I 
begynne nowe vtterlye to contemne, despyse, reiecte, cast awaye, & sette at nought al 
the pleasures of this world, wherein I haue so greatlye reioyced in tymes past. . . .^^ 

Once the guests have been drawn to this point, it remains only to inform them 
how to gauge whether their newfound faith is true. Thus the fourth "dish" 



Seymour Baker House / Reforming the Tudor Dialogue / 19 



discusses the works that are the hallmark of sincere repentance and 
amendment of life. 

The hortatory nature of the dialogue, evident throughout, completes the 
impression that Becon's dialogue is a sermon adapted for print. By casting 
it as a dialogue, Becon acknowledges the prominence of the genre, which 
encompassed not only the Erasmian model but also the traditional form of 
Christian catechesis. Becon's hasty switch from sermon to print is borne out 
by biographical details: after falling afoul of the authorities, he recanted his 
views publicly in Norwich in 1541, and, as he put it, "changed the form of 
teaching the people from preaching to writing."^ ^ What this means is now 
clear. Instead of speaking his message, he had it printed, making only a 
modicum of changes to accommodate the new medium. 

For students of early modem print culture, Becon's adaptation of an oral 
work to a printed medium is instructive — paralleling as it does a similar 
movement from orality to literacy in the popular church, as well as in English 
society at large. When Becon wrote A Christmas bankette, English Scriptures 
were just becoming available to the larger reading public, a fact Philemon 
notes. ^2 Works were pouring off the presses with advice on how to deal with 
the new accessibility of the Word. Yet Becon's dialogue affords no instruc- 
tion on how Scripture is to be read. His laymen, with the exception of the 
host, are illiterate. Without Philemon's preaching, they would lack even a 
rudimentary apprehension of Christian truth. What Becon has given them 
instead of a model of exegesis is a volume of proof-texts and a plan for 
household catechesis, centred on the paterfamilias — a plan which, if 
followed, would guarantee not only correct Christian doctrine but godly 
domestic management. 

These two dialogues, one advancing the Christian humanist message 
through dialectic tempered by rhetoric, the other rejecting dialectical inquiry 
in favour of the Word's unaided power to establish true conversion, present 
diametrically opposed approaches to the question of lay exegesis of Scripture 
so pressing in late Henrician England.^^ Both attempt to establish a basis for 
conversion stemming from an encounter with the Word. Erasmus's method 
relies heavily on education, linguistic ability, and long training. Becon might 
well have felt these were luxuries England could ill afford, given the pace 
of change he had witnessed in the decade before he began writing. By 
reforming his dialogue, Becon suggests that Erasmus's model is unnecessar- 
ily complex for the needs of emerging readers of Scripture, as well as 
theologically flawed. In its place, he offers a dialogue showing that exposure 



20 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



to the Word through the sermon converts, and enables its hearers to effect 
like conversion in others. In this view, there is no need to adopt a pre-Chris- 
tian past, with its trust in reason and its assumption of a neutral or benign 
Nature; nor is there a need to imitate its rhetoric, its textual models, or its 
methods. By changing a familiar Erasmian colloquy into a sermon, Becon 
establishes a new model of order — domestic, civil, and cosmic — based on 
Scripture alone. The readings and texts of the past have become obsolete. 

Mount Angel Seminary 

Notes 

1. No. 1714 in A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland 
and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640, first comp. by A. W. Pollard and G. R. 
Redgrave, 2nd éd., rev. and enl., begun by W. A. Jackson and F. S. Ferguson, completed by 
Katharine F. Pantzer, 3 vols. (London: Bibliographical Society, 1976-91). Becon's work 
ran to three editions in 1542: STC nos. 1713, 1714, and 1715. 

2. E. J. Devereux, Renaissance English Translations of Erasmus: A Bibliography to 1700 
(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983), p. 50. 

3. Ibid., pp. 67-69. 

4. Ibid., p. 4. In his dedication of his collected works to Archbishop Parker, Becon also 
professes the common touch: "[TJherefore in all my sermons and writings I have not 
attempted matters of high knowledge and far removed from the common sense and capacity 
of the people" (The Works of Thomas Becon, ed. John Ayre for the Parker Society, 3 vols. 
[Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1843-44], I: 27). Of course, Becon cites Psabn 
131 as his precedent in humihty. 

5. See John Yost, 'Tavemer's Use of Erasmus and the Protestantization of English Human- 
ism," Renaissance Quarterly, 23 (1970), pp. 266-76. An example of a successful contem- 
porary English dialogue (on hterary if not polemical grounds) is Thomas More's Dialogue 
concerning heresies, but there are few others. Given the popularity of the form during the 
English Reformation, More's signal success proves the difficulty of the task. More's Utopia 
is included among the five genuine TUdor dialogues (out of more than 230 written) by Roger 
Deakins ("The Tudor Prose Dialogue: Genre and Anti-Genre," Studies in English Literature, 
20 [ 1 980], pp. 5-23), although he does not consider it a "true" dialogue along classical hnes. 

6. Deakins, p. 18. 

7. Augustine F. Curley, Augustine's Critique of Skepticism: A Study of Contra Academicos 
(New York: Peter Lang, 1966), p. 32. 

8. James D. Tracy, "Erasmus Among the Postmodemists: Dissimulation Bonae Literae, and 
Docta Pietas Revisited," in Hilmar Pabel, éd., Erasmus's Vision of the Church, Sixteenth 
Century Essays and Studies XXXIII (Kirksville, MO: Sixteenth Century Joumal, 1995), 
pp. 10-11. Biblical models of dissimulatio were plentiful but none more convincing than 
the repeated admonitions of Jesus to conceal his divine nature. See Manfred Hoffmann, 
Rhetoric andTheology: The Hermeneutic of Erasmus ÇToronto: University of Toronto Press, 
1994), pp. 66 and 123. 



Seymour Baker House / Reforming the Tudor Dialogue / 21 



9. Quoted in Curley, p. 32. 

10. Deakins, p. 7. 

1 1. In the dialogue itself, Eusebius decries the lack of rhetoric (or "feeling") in the dialectic of 
Scotus (A Godly Feasts The Colloquies of Erasmus, trans. Craig Thompson [Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1965], p. 65; hereafter referred to as Godly Feast). For the role 
of "feehng" in Erasmian writing, including the nature of the ludic in dialogue, see Walter 
Gordon, Humanist Play and Belief: The Seriocomic Art ofDesiderius Erasmus (Toronto: 
University of Toronto Press, 1990). 

12. Eg., "The same scent doesn't please everyone" (Godly Feast, p. 49), "Every man to his 
tastes," and "One garden wasn't enough to hold all kinds of plants" (p. 52). Phrases stressing 
the variety and multipHcity of nature include "varied spectacle," "many species," and "a 
wonderful variety" (p. 53). 

13. Godly Feast, p. 55. 

14. This is emblematic of Erasmus's hermeneutic: Nature resembles divine wisdom because 
we are led to reason from the visible to the invisible, and the Word mediates between these 
realms. See Hoffmann, passim. Dialogue was thought to be an outer form of the interior 
reasoning process itself, and therefore essential to any process of discovery. See Stephen 

A. Tyler, "Ode to Dialog on the Occasion of the Un-for-seen," in The Interpretation of 
Dialogue, ed. Tullio Maranhâo (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), pp. 298-99. 

1 5 . Godly Feast, pp. 5 1 -52. 

16. Ibid., p. 53. 

17. With the "seasoning" provided by a good appetite in A Godly Feast (p. 49), cf. "Hunger is 
the best sauce" in Adages, Collected Works of Erasmus, vol. 34, trans, and annotated R. A. 

B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), p. 34. 

18. Godly Feast, pp. 52-53. 

19. Ibid., p. 56. 

20. Ibid., p. 51. 

21. Ibid. 

22. Ibid. 

23. Ibid., p. 58. There are, of course, deliberate echoes of Erasmus's Antibarbari here. 

24. In Erasmus's view, allegory bridges the gulf between letter and spirit, the visible and 
invisible, the material and the spirimal (Hoffmann, p. 11). 

25. Godly Feast, p. 60. 

26. Ibid. For Erasmus and the public consensus against the private and essentially unverifiable 
exegetical method advanced by Luther, see Marjorie O'Rourke Boyle, Rhetoric arul 
Reform: Erasmus' Civil Dispute with Luther (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 
1983), pp. 133-34. 

27. E.g., "Nothing is useful unless likewise honorable" {Godly Feast, p. 63). 

28. Ibid., p. 65. 

29. Ibid., pp. 6%-69 



22 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



30. Hoffmann, p. 254. 

31 . Erika Rummel, Erasmus' Annotations on the New Testament: From Philologist to Theolo- 
gian, Erasmus Studies 8 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986), p. 101. 

32. Christmas bankette, sig. A5. 

33. Kg., on the door Philemon has inscribed "the sayeng of Christ, 'I am the dore. By me yf 
ony ma/j entreth in, he shall be safe, and shall go in & oute, & shall fynde pasmre.'" And 
on the window is written "Christes sayeng in the Gospell of S. John 'I am the lyght of the 
worlde'" {Christmas bankette, sigs. A6-A7). 

34 Ibid., sig. B4. 

35. Kg., the astonishingly naïve remark of Eusebius: "Me thynketh that thoughe [Adam] 
offended, yet his offence should not tume to our damnacion, seynge we were not then borne" 
(Christmas Bankette, sig. C2^). 

36. Ibid., sigs. Ae^'-AV. 

37. /tïVi.,sigs.C2\D6\C8. 
38./Z?w/.,sigs.A8\B6-6\ 

39. Ibid., sig. B5. 

40. Ibid., sig. B5^. Other guests use language suggesting that the head of the household is, in 
fact, the household's pastor, an identification that furthers the quasi-clerical role Becon 
imagines for his adult m.ale readers. See Christmas bankette, sigs. B6, B6^. 

41. Ibid., sig. Cl^ (cf. Gen. 3:17-18). 

42. Ibid., sig. C2. 

43. Kg., "by thorns and brambles are meant sin and wickedness" and "I wyl read vnto you the 
mynde of the famous Doctour Origen, concemyng this matter" or "And that ye maye knowe 
that I wraste not the scriptures, I wyl read vnto you the sayeng of S. Austen ..." {Ibid., 
sigs. C2V, D4V-D5). 

44. Ibid., sigs. D4-^v 

45. Ibid., sig.ES. 

46. Ibid., sigs. C3-3^. (Note: on C3 the names of Philemon and Theophilus have been wrongly 
transposed by the typesetter.) 

47. /^/^.,sigs. C3V-4. 

48. /few/., sigs. C3v-4,C6,C8\ 

49. Ibid., sig. G6. 

50. Ibid., sigs. F4V-F5. 

51. Derek Bailey, Thomas Becon and the Reformation of the Church in England (Edinburgh: 
Boyd, 1952), p. 18. 

52. Christmas bankette, sig. G3^. But the proclamation of 1541 states that while English 
subjects may read the Bible, "no lay subjects reading the same should presume to take upon 
themselves any common disputation, argument, or exposition of the mysteries therein 
contained " The 1 543 Act for Advancement of True Religion severely curtailed lay Bible 



Seymour Baker House / Reforming the Tudor Dialogue / 23 



reading. See P. Hughes and J. Larkin, eds., Tudor Royal Proclamations, 3 vols. (New Haven: 
Yale University Press, 1964-69), I: 297. 

53. The conflict between the old and the new is further reflected, although less clearly, in the 
economics of the works. While Erasmus intended his scholarship to advance the literacy 
even of the plowmen, the price, in combination with his choice of Latin as the language of 
composition, suggests that his works were aimed primarily at the traditional book-buying 
class: his dialogue was part of a larger quarto collection, costing perhaps one shilHng or 
more. It is significant that when Erasmus's controversial colloquies were issued in English, 
they appeared not in quarto volumes, as was common on the continent, but rather in cheaper 
octavo editions to widen their circulation. Becon's Christmas bankette also first appeared 
in octavo, at an unbound price of around 3d. For book prices, see Francis Johnson, "Notes 
on EngHsh Retail Book-prices, 1 550-1 640," The Library, 5th series, 5.2 (1 950), pp. 83-1 1 3 ; 
for the evolution of contemporary print culture, see Seymour House, "Literature, Drama, 
and Politics," in The Reign of Henry VIII, ed. Diarmaid MacCuUoch (New York: St. 
Martin's, 1995), pp. 181-202. 



On First Looking into 
Lumley's Euripides 



PATRICIA 
DEMERS 



Summary: This essay explores the text of Lady Jane Lumley 's Tudor transla- 
tion of Iphigeneia at Aulis in an attempt to see the mind of an erudite, privi- 
leged young woman at work By braiding domestic and political contexts in 
Lumley 's adroitly oblique allusions to her time, it attends to her interest in the 
moral issues of government and authority. The translation subtly subverts 
commonplaces about a woman 's negligible worth. 



Between 1550 and 1553, Lady Jane Lumley, a young bride, translated 
Iphigeneia at Aulis, thus producing the first English translation of a 
Greek drama. The manuscript volume (British Library MS Royal 15. A. IX 
Lumley), from which this single text has been printed twice (at the beginning 
and end of this century), also contains four orations of Isocrates,' which Lady 
Lumley translated from Greek to Latin and dedicated to her father, Henry 
Fitzalan, fourteenth Earl of Arundel.^ Harold Child, the Malone Society edi- 
tor, opting for the 1550 date, labels these translations "exercises of child- 
hood," since he assumes that Lady Lumley was a thirteen- or 
fourteen-year-old girl at the time. Diane Purkiss, the recent editor, argues for 
1553, largely on the basis of Arundel's confiscation of Cranmer's library, 
which contained two copies of Euripides' tragedy, in that year."* Although it 
cannot be settled with absolute surety, the matter of the date is not insignifi- 
cant. Purkiss contends that the dating of this work actually casts the play, 
about a father's sacrifice of a daughter to appease a goddess, move ships and 
win a war, and its reflections on Arundel in different lights. If it was com- 
posed in 1550, "it may be a graceful allusion to her father's efforts to serve 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 1 (1999) /25 



26 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



the state at his own risk"; if in 1553, around the time of the debacle but before 
the execution the following February of Lady Jane Grey, the play transforms 
"the sharp fears and uncertainties of mid-Tudor politics into an elevated 
moral platform."^ Certainly, for any consideration of the turn of fortune's 
wheel and the attempt to use daughters and young women to advance politi- 
cal power — major motifs in Euripides' drama of virginal sacrifice — the 
three-year period of possible composition was a virtual cavalcade: the dis- 
grace and trial for felony of Protector Somerset, whose meteoric rise was as- 
sisted by his sister's marriage to Henry VIII; Somerset's marriage of his 
eldest daughter to the son of his arch-rival, the Duke of Northumberland; the 
execution of Somerset; the death of Somerset's nephew, Edward VI; 
Northumberland's foiled stratagems for the coronation of his daugh- 
ter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey; and the accession of Mary Tudor, the first daugh- 
ter of Henry VIII. I propose to braid domestic and political contexts, already 
inextricably intertwined in this period, as ways of illuminating the specific 
and what Purkiss has termed "inescapable . . . textuality of the pasf^ in Lady 

Lumley's Euripides. 

Lady Lumley is part of that changed "human scene" in which "women 

love books."^ The emphasis here is on especially young women. Lumley's 
youthful undertaking associates her with the "younge virgins so nouzled and 
trained in the studie of letters, that thei willyngly set all other vain pastimes at 
naught for leamynges sake," whom Nicholas Udall, Master of Eton, reported 
as "embrac[ing] vertuous exercises, readyng and writyng, and with most 
emest studie, both erlye and late, to applye themselues to the acquiryng of 
knowledge, as well in all other liberall artes and disciplines," and "as 
familiarlye to reade or reason thereof in Greke, Latine, Frenche or Italian, as 
in Englishe."^ Along with her younger sister, Mary, Duchess of Norfolk, 
whose New Year's manuscript gifts offered to her father consisted of classi- 
cal sayings translated from English and Greek to Latin, Lady Lumley joins 
the company of such bookish, multilingual, humanist-educated adolescents 
as Margaret Roper, nineteen-year-old anonymous translator of Erasmus's 
Treatise on the Pater Noster; Princess Elizabeth, twelve-year-old translator 
of Marguerite de Navarre's Le Miroir de l'âme pécheresse, with extant 
juvenilia including a French translation of Erasmus's Dialogus Fidei and a 
rendering of Queen Katherine Parr's Prayers into French, Latin and Italian;^ 
Ladies Anne, Margaret and Jane Seymour, teenaged authors of Latin distichs 
in honour of Marguerite de Navarre (the Hecatodistichon); and, later, the ac- 
complished daughters — Mildred, Anne, Elizabeth and Katherine — of Sir 
Anthony Cooke. 



Patricia Demers / On First Looking into Lumley's Euripides 111 



What would attract Lady Jane Lumley to Iphigeneia at Aulisl Some 
practical answers first. It was one of two Greek tragedies that Erasmus had 
translated into Latin. Her husband, Lord John Lumley, having matriculated 
at Cambridge in 1549, himself finished a manuscript translation of Eras- 
mus's Institution of a Christian Prince, also dedicated to Arundel in 1550. 
Elaine Beilin proposes that, in response to Lord Lumley's encouragement 
and the "implicitly Christian diction" of Erasmus's text. Lady Jane "pro- 
duced ... a female version of the selfless prince," transforming Iphigeneia 
into "a crypto-Christian."^^ The co-editors of a new edition of the first origi- 
nal closet drama composed by a woman and published in English, Lady Eliz- 
abeth Cary's The Tragedy ofMariam, not only speculate "whether a later 
woman writer such as Cary, who shared Lumley's class status as well as her 
religion, might have seen a copy of her play" but also underscore the claim 
that "Lumley's Iphigeneia partly succeeds in rhetorically transforming her- 
self from a political victim to a Christlike martyr."^ ^ Lumley is following her 
Greek and Latin texts in presenting the sacrifice of Iphigeneia and the ap- 
pearance of the slaughtered white hart. No doubt she did see Iphigeneia as a 
Christ figure. Yet although Lord John and Lady Jane were both Catholics and 
the Arundel association with Catholicism was well known, the textual evi- 
dence I will explore in this essay does not fully support the claim that 
Lumley's Iphigeneia pays particular "tribute to a woman's Christian spirit, 
courage and eventual sanctification." ^^ 

The extent of Lady Lumley's knowledge of the Greek language in 
Englishing a play that Erasmus labelled "e graeco sermone . . . traducta''^^ 
and her reliance or over-reliance on Erasmus's Latin are concerns of the few 
extensive examinations of her work. Over half a century ago, in rebutting Da- 
vid Greene's claim that Lady Lumley "had a knowledge of her original and a 
feeling for its verse extraordinary and rare for one of her years and her pe- 
riod," ^"^ Frank Crane excoriated the translation as "a childish performance, 
derived directly and carelessly from the Latin, when the text is followed at 
all."*^ Lady Lumley can do nothing right for Crane, who insists she shows 
"no knowledge of Greek, and none of poetry in any language."^^ I believe 
that Lumley's The Tragédie of Euripides called Iphigeneia translated out of 
Greake into Englisshe deserves closer and more temperate scrutiny. 

The second set of answers involves a more complex, speculative mix of 
background, life experiences and the degree of fit or imbalance between 
them and the layered frenzy of Euripides' tragedy. Instead of focusing on 
Lady Lumley's mistakes (which include some howlers), and with an aware- 
ness of the dangers of arguing from biography, I prefer to see the mind of an 



28 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



erudite and privileged young woman at work. Lady Lumley grew up with 
ready access to one of the finest libraries in Tudor England. Arundel was as 
concerned for the education of his son, Henry, whom he sent to Cambridge, 
as for the attainments of his two daughters and stepson, John Radcliffe, who 
were educated at home. Henry, Jane and Mary Fitzalan and John Radcliffe all 
left manuscripts of their work in the Arundel library.^ -^ To the "influence of 
the daughters" Sears Jayne and Francis Johnson trace "not only the numerous 
volumes of exercises and translations in their own hands, but also the relative 
richness of the library in the Latin and Greek classics and in music." ^^ As 
they observe, "what Arundel would never have acquired for himself he 
bought in profusion for his children."^^ While Purkiss emphasizes, appropri- 
ately enough, the commodity value of Lady Lumley' s education as a "sign" of 
Arundel's "wealth, prestige, power and fashionableness" and as a realization 
of the view that "to have a daughter able to read Greek was figuratively to 
stand near the throne,"^^ I wish to recast this education from the point of view 
of its recipient.^ ^ Although we have no knowledge of specific tutors, such a 
formation in "heuristic imitation," in "the deep assimilation and transforma- 
tion of classical texts,"^^ left their mark on this pupil, especially in her choice 
of authors and texts — Iphigeneia being "the most translated Greek tragedy 
in Europe in the sixteenth century"^^ and Isocrates being noted for his "ex- 
emplary prose style and moral judgements. "^'^ 

With the accession of Mary, the library of her Lord High Steward was 
enriched by Arundel's appropriation of Archbishop Cranmer's unparalleled 
collection of mainly theological works. Following the deaths of his son, the 
Duchess of Norfolk and his second wife, Arundel invited his surviving 
daughter and his son-in-law to live with him at Nonsuch Palace in Surrey; the 
impressive Lumley collection of books and paintings, therefore, was moved 
from Lumley Castle near Durham and added to the library at Nonsuch, which 
Lord Lumley, an "enthusiastic antiquarian,"^^ who served as Lord High Steward 
of the University of Oxford for half a century, continued to augment. Because 
Lumley bequeathed the library to Prince Henry in 1609, its twenty-six hun- 
dred volumes "became part of the Royal Library, given to the British Mu- 
seum in 1757 by George IL''^^ 

What can we say of Lady Lumley's achievement itself? Pearl Hogrefe 
conveys the tepid temperature of existing commentary by noting coolly that 
Arundel's daughters "used their education in quiet ways that perhaps seemed 
important to them."^^ Yet it is difficult to think of a project less inherently 
quiet and more fraught than Euripides' Iphigeneia. Preoccupied with the in- 
termingle^ concepts and occurrences of marriage and death, love and 



Patricia Demers / On First Looking into Lumley's Euripides /29 



sacrifice, the tragedy charts the human and political consequences of Helen's 
extramarital affair with Paris; the agitation of her cast-off husband, 
Menelaus, implicates Menelaus's brother, Agamemnon, in fulfilling a fate- 
ful prophecy involving a feigned marriage and a real sacrifice: "The charac- 
ters seem to know that they are caught in an inconsistent story and try to find a 
way out of it."^^ Accusations of deceit reverberate in the verbal jousts be- 
tween the brothers, as Menelaus charges Agamemnon, who himself had 
raped Clytemnestra and slain her husband and suckling infant, with weak 
leadership, while Agamemnon counters by reminding Menelaus of his 
wife's public infidelity. A wife's feeling of betrayal by her husband — 
Clytemnestra' s anger at Agamemnon for consenting to the sacrifice of their 
daughter to appease the goddess and allow for the passage of Greek ships out 
of the harbour of Aulis — is matched by a husband's grief: Menelaus's an- 
guish over the murder and rapine resulting from his wife's dalliance. An 
ironic contrast separates the intended bride and groom, whose nuptial cere- 
mony is never celebrated: Achilles, the man of action, proves unsuccessful in 
swaying the crowd to refuse the sacrifice of innocent blood, while the vir- 
ginal daughter, Iphigeneia, having resisted death, eventually offers herself, 
"yield[s]" her "neck" (1560), for the sake of Greek victory. Spectators or 
readers are left to untangle the knot of voluntary sacrifice as either suicide or 
a fine death. Nicole Loraux emphasizes Euripides' deliberate distortion of 
the significance of the sacrifice: "under the pretense that the rule of acquies- 
cence is being respected, consent is turned into free choice, and a death to 
which the victim submits becomes a willing death, not to say a noble one."^^ 

It is important to remember how daring and daunting an undertaking the 
solo translation of a Greek tragedy actually was "at a time when there were no 
commentaries, when Greek grammars and dictionaries were few and 
crude."^^ As well-read an adolescent as Lady Lumley would not have missed 
the significance of the filial sacrifice, recalling the unhappy fate of 
Jephthah's daughter {Judges 11:32-40) more vividly than the last-minute 
substitution that saves Isaac (Genesis 22). But the intricately wound coils of 
sexual tension and the complex genealogies unfolded in the play must have 
presented real difficulties for the young, relatively sheltered translator. 

Lady Lumley's prose Iphigeneia is a simplified, abbreviated, domesti- 
cated version of Euripides' verse tragedy. In many instances the reader can 
see how Lady Lumley is clarifying the story line, getting the family connec- 
tions straight for her own benefit. She translates Evdismixs'sArgumentum^ ab- 
sent in the Greek, correctly and fully, adding only the gloss, when 
Iphigeneia' s arrival is reported, that "Oreste infante" is "Orestes hir brother 



.»> 



30 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



(44-45; 27-28). In exchanges with Agamemnon, Lumley's Old Man identi- 
fies Tindarus ("Tyndareus" in Euripides), as he does not in either Euripides 
(46-47)31 or Erasmus (1 155 E), as "thy wiues father" (60-61 ; 41). Yet later, in 
rendering Agamemnon's account of Tindarus's scheme with Helen's suitors to 
ensure their allegiance and also to give Helen free choice, Lumley does not refer 
to Tindarus's crafty outwitting, mentioned in Euripides ("ÛTifjÀôev aÛTOÙç 
Tuvôdpecûç KUKvfj (t)p€Vi" [67]) and Erasmus ("Persuasit illis arte & 
ingenio senex" [1 156 B]). Her abridged translation emphasizes the narrative 
line, highlighting details that advance the action and deleting what must have 
seemed to the adolescent translator intensifying or decorative extras. The intro- 
duction of Paris as "a goodlie yonge man, and of noble parentage" (93-94; 61) 
neglects the particulars of his flower-starred vestment gleaming with gold bar- 
baric bravery; Erasmus rendered Euripides' "àvôripôç ^8v eificcTcov 
OTOAfi/xpuaa) Te Àa^iTipôç pappctpcp x^iofj^iaTi" (73-74) as "nitens 
amictu floride/Auroque fulgens, barbarum videlicet/Luxum" (1156 B). 

Lumley appears to favour some characters over others. Her Achilles is 
passionate, intense and soldierly. While Lumley stints on some of the pro- 
phetic and heraldic elements of Paris's appearance, she exaggerates Achil- 
les' reported claim to Iphigeneia as his bride. Without precedent in either 
Euripides or Erasmus, Lumley's Agamemnon asserts that Achilles "was so de- 
sirous of her" (146-47; 93). Lumley includes no mention of Agamemnon's ex- 
tolling Achilles' high repute — "àÇio^ia xàvôpôç éKyaupoii^evoç" (101) 
or "dignitatem exaggerans" (1 1 56 D) — nor any self-incrimination with re- 
gard to his "framing of feigned spousals" ("ijjeuofi ai)vdi(;aç" [105]; 
"puellae obtexo falsas nuptias" [1156 E]). There is a genuine abruptness 
about her Agamemnon and very little celebration of service for the public or 
national good. Rather, his own unease, the grim commission he is resolved to 
carry out and his emerging remorse make him a figure of contradictions. 
Lady Lumley probably found the complicity of this father in his daughter's 
death painful yet, in the circles she inhabited, not impossible to fathom. She does 
not, and could not, shy away from the fact that Grecian victory is purchased and 
secured with Iphigeneia' s life. Her chief way of dealing with the architect of this 
filial sacrifice is to present Agamemnon as a king of blunt commands, conveying 
his first change of heart matter-of-factly but evasively: 



Tell hir that she shall not nede at this time to sende 
my daughter hether: for her mariage shall be differred 
unto a nother time. (163-66; 104-6) 



Patricia Demers / On First Looking into Lumley's Euripides /3 1 



However, the directive lacks the evocativeness of the instruction not to send 

Iphigeneia "w«/o the waveless shore/Of Aulis, where the bend/Of that 

sea-pinion of Euoboea lies/Gulf-shapen" (119-22) — poetic language, 

evoking the need to sacrifice to Artemis, that is present in both Greek and 

Latin texts. 

Lumley's prose, more paraphrase than translation, is approximately 

three-quarters the length of the text of Euripides.^^ This is paraphrase with a 
difference. In addressing the reader of Erasmus's Biblical paraphrases, trans- 
lated into English, Udall had defined "paraphrase" as explanatory, instruc- 
tive enlargement: 

For a paraphrase is a plain settyng forth of a texte 
or sentëce more at large, with such circumstaunce of 
mo or other wordes, as maie make the sentëce open, 
clere, plain, & familiar which otherwise should 
perchaunce seme bare, unfruitefuU, hard, straunge, 
rough, obscure, and derke to be understanded of any that 
wer either unlearned or meanely entreed.^^ 

Udall's emphasis on copiousness fits both the Erasmian undertaking and his 
own paratactic style, but it does not match Lumley's project: a paraphrase 
that reduces the length of the original and a manuscript, unpublished if not 
uncirculated for almost four centuries, whose raison d'être was the pleasure 
and intellectual challenge of the translator herself. The most prominent 
excisions are the choruses, usually preceding entrances of major characters. 
Therefore, Lumley's reader does not witness the strophes, antistrophes and 
epodes of the young married women of Chalcis reviewing the encampment at 
Aulis (Euripides, 163-302), assessing the frenzy and spell of Eros (542-97), 
prophesying the destruction of Troy (75 1-800) and describing the wreathing 
of the head of the bride (1036-98). Some of the most poignant speeches 
which Lumley omits are puzzling exclusions, since they involve softening or 
explanatory details. For instance, she does not translate Iphigeneia' s 
tear-filled plea to Agamemnon (Euripides, 121 1-52; Erasmus, 1 1 77 E-1 1 78 D), 
in which she reminds her father of such touching domestic scenes as playing 
on his knee and twining her fingers in his beard. Absent as well is 
Agamemnon's justification, his reason for having to sacrifice her to prevent 

the slaying of all his daughters (Euripides, 1267; Erasmus, 1178 F). 

This young translator does make some outright mistakes. She miscon- 
strues the Old Man's reply to Agamemnon's change of heart not to send 
Iphigeneia to Aulis. Lumley's Old Man wonders, "Will not Achilles thinke 
you be angerie, for that under the color of him you haue determined the 



55 



55 



32 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



deathe of your doughter?" (167-70; 107-8), when, in fact, it is Achilles' an- 
ger that is the real concern. For fifteen lines (405-20; 264-76) of abrupt 
heated exchange between Agamemnon and Menelaus, following Agamem- 
non's berating and goading of Menelaus and preceding the Messenger's an- 
nouncement of Iphigeneia's arrival, Lumley mixes up the names of the two 
speakers, giving Menelaus' s lines to Agamemnon and Agamemnon's to 
Menelaus. Neither brother is a pillar of strength, but Lumley' s inversions 
make Agamemnon sound friendless and plaintive, with Menelaus dispensing 
advice about loving and not hurting one's friends and avoiding being "be- 
witched of some god" (417; 274). Although Lumley's Clytemnestra adroitly 
identifies her twin brothers, labelled only as "îcaîÔ ' é^cj te o\)yyô\;(ù 
(1 153) and "germanus meus" (1 176 C), as "my brother Castor and Pollux 
(967-68; 658-59), she sadly misrepresents her own progeny: "I happened to 
haue thre sones at one birthe, and afterwarde one daughter" (974-75; 
662-63). As Lumley's text itself had already referred to Clytemnestra' s 
"other daughters" (700; 470), the Greek specifies three daughters and one 
son, and so does the Latin: "Porro puellis editis nixu tribus,/Hunc insuper 
peperi tibi puellulum [sic]'' (1176 E). Yet "it would not be difficulf'^"* to read 
three sons at one birth, since this could be a construal of "puellis tribus." 
But Lumley also crafts several trenchant, illuminating interpretations. 
On an opening philosophical note, her Agamemnon observes that the 
"renowne" of ruling in glory and honour "is uerye brickie" (32; 24), which to 
my ears nicely distils the sense of Euripides' "to KaÀôv o^aXepov" (21) 
and Erasmus's "lubrica res est" ( 1 1 55 C). An obsolete word meaning "brittle, 
fragile, frail or weak," "brickie" supplies a pithy comment on the 
topsy-turvydom of mid-Tudor politics. It is an adjective and a concept 
Lumley may have known from reading the Bible (Wisdom 15:13; Psalms 
89:9), a text well represented in her father's library.^^ Although the OED 
cites the Authorized Version and Douay Bible, respectively, both over half a 
century later than the Iphigeneia project, it is not inconceivable that Lumley 
associated the word with a biblical context. Despite Sir Thomas More' s con- 
demnation of Wycliffe as the "great arch-heretic" whose "malicious purpose 
. . . corrupted the holy text,"^^ Lumley may have been familiar with the pas- 
sage from Wisdom in an earlier version of the Wycliffite Bible, which com- 
pares "vnwise men" to "britel vesselis," or, more likely, in the Vulgate, with 
its description of those "qui ex terrae materia fragilis vasa et sculptilia 
fingit."37 With regard to Psalms 89:9, the Douay Bible (1609) termed man's 
life "as brickie as a spider's web," a rendering of this image of transience in 
the Vulgate: "omnes enim dies nostri transierunt." When Agamemnon is 



Patricia Demers / On First Looking into Lumley's Euripides / 33 



Sparring with Menelaus, he remarks to his brother, "Indeed you file your 
wordes well" (289; 193), an observation whose verb captures with intuitive 
precision the meaning of subtle glozing in both ''ykiboo ' . . . oo(t)fi" (333) 
and "dicta phaleras" (1160 E). Although Lumley habitually collapses and 
abridges, on at least one occasion she extends and amplifies Greek and Latin 
texts. As Agamemnon is cataloguing his griefs, in anticipation of 
Iphigeneia's question, "O father will you kill me?" (468-69; 305), he con- 
cludes his speech in Lumley's version by remarking, "On this parte pitie and 
shame, on the other side honor and glorie dothe moche moue me" (477-79; 
310-1 1). An insightful extraction of the quandary facing a father who is also 
a king and an embattled military leader, this summation does not appear in 
either original. 

However, when it comes to representing the sexual betrayals that have 
necessitated a virginal daughter's sacrifice, Lumley is much less explicit. 
Her Agamemnon taunts his brother, "Dothe my preferment troble you? or els 
dothe the desier of your bewtifull wife uexe you?" (390-92; 254-56). These 
suggested reactive responses differ considerably from the active yearning 
and righteous rebuke of Menelaus as a husband in Euripides: 

Dost yearn to win a virtuous wife? 

This I cannot find thee: her thou gainedst, vilely ruledst thou. 

What? — must I, who have not erred, for thy transgression suffer now? 

(382-84) 

Moreover, Lumley omits any mention of Menelaus' s desire, despite the 
warnings of reason and honour, to clasp a lovely woman in his arms, longings 
Erasmus represented: "at venustam conjugem/Misso honesto, aequo, 
bonoque vis tenere amplexibus" (1161 E). Concupiscence is not an easy 
subject for Lumley. Her Clytemnestra goes as far as to label Helen "a 
naughtie woman" (983; 668) and one "who hathe neuer shewed her selfe 
faithefull to hir husbande" (1021-22; 691-92); Euripides and Erasmus 
minced no words about the "wanton" ("KaKTJç y^vaiKÔç" [1 169], "feminae 
malae" [1 1 76 E]) whose harlotry ("r| ô * éÇa^iaptoCo ' " [1204]) in breaking 
the sacred vows of the marriage contract ("at contra soror/Quae casta pacti 
jura deseruit thori" [1 177 D]) made this sister such a contrast to the loyal 
Clytemnestra, who must forfeit her daughter. 

The counterpoint to this sexual obliqueness is the domestic idiom 
Lumley adopts, often intensifying the poignancy of the sacrifice. In resisting 
Agamemnon's command that she return to Greece "to be amongste [her] 
other daughters" (700-1; 469-70), Lumley's Clytemnestra ironically em- 



34 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



phasizes protocol and declares herself ready. Her argument that "the mother 
ought to be at the mariage of the daughter" (697-98; 468-69) and "muste see 
all thinges made redie for the mariage" (703-4; 472-73) repeatedly throws 
back to the king the sham of his daughter's marriage. Lumley does not use the 
same contrast between "without" and "within" as Euripides' Clytemnestra, 
who tells her husband, 

éXdCiv oh Tct^o) Tipâooe, tdv Ôônoiç ô ' éyco, 
& XP^ 7rap€Îvai vun(|)ioioi TuapOévoiç. 
Go, order things without: within doors I 
Will order what is fitting for a bride. (740-41), 

or as Erasmus's queen, who contrasts outdoors business with domestic 
concerns: "Quin tu foris quae sunt agas negotia/Curas ego tractavero 
domesticas" ( 1 1 68 B). But the assertiveness of Lumley 's Clytemnestra, who 
declares, "I will not goo home yet" (702; 471), shows that she is much more 
aware than jittery as a mother-of-the-"bride." Agamemnon echoes 
Clytemnestra' s idea of readiness in his announcement, "I have prepared all 
thinge redie for the sacrafice" (913-14; 618-19); this statement translates 
Erasmus's words about the fittingly prepared means of expiation, "parata rite 
piamina" (1175 D). Even though it excludes the details mentioned in 
Euripides and Erasmus about "lustral waters," "cleansing flame" and 
"spirtings of dark blood," the resonating significance of being "redie" and 
the shift from a marriage ceremony to human sacrifice underscore with 
moving simplicity the inevitable outcome of these ritual preparations. To be 
honest, too, there are times when Lumley merely resorts to her code word 
"troble" to convey the boldness of the Greek or Latin. In my estimation, her 
rendering of the Chorus's emphatic position about the might and power of 
motherhood ("ôeivôv to TiKteiv Kai (|)épei (|)iÀxpov iieya" [917]; "Res 
efficax peperisse, vimque maximam" [1171 E]) is pallid and prosaic: "Truly 
it is a uerie troblesome thinge to have childrë" (831-32; 563). 

When the domestic idiom slips into this sort of encodedness, Lumley' s 
reliance on generalizing, mollifying descriptors has the effect of reducing the 
passion of the play. Agamemnon's exposition, "I am in soche troble that I 
knowe not what to do" (553-54; 361-62), scarcely plumbs the depths of Eu- 
ripides' character, "whelmed amidst despair" ("riTioprmai ... ta vOv xdôe 
[537]); her Agamemnon is slightly more faithful to Erasmus's king: "miser, 
"infelix," "perplexus" (1164 B). When Lumley's Achilles expresses, 
through litotes, what should be a stirring to action, noting that Iphigeneia's 
death would be "no small dishonor to [him]" (845; 572) and "no litell 



Ï5 



Patricia Demers / On First Looking into Lumley's Euripides / 35 



reproche" (849-50; 574-75), he hardly touches the pent-up emotion of Eu- 
ripides' and Erasmus's warrior, who expostulates: 

. . . My very blood were murder-tainted, 

If this maid, suffering wrongs intolerable. 

For my sake and my marriage be destroyed. 

With outrage past belief unmerited. (940-43) 

Verum nee ipse vacavero piaculo 

Si virgo per me perieret, nee non meas 

Per nuptias, nova nee serenda sustinens, 

Violata miris simil & indignis modis. (11 72 A-B) 

As Lumley's Iphigeneia approaches sacrifice, she generates her own 
apotheosis in ways sufficiently different from the Greek and Latin texts. 
Using mainly subjunctive rather than indicative moods, Lumley's heroine 
also emphasizes form, law and authority. To her mother she cautions: 

You ought rather to haue thanked Achilles, bicause 
he so gentelly hathe promised you his helpe, which maye 
happen to bring him into a grete mischefe. I wolde counsell 
you therfore to suffer this troble paciently, for I muste 
nedes die, and will suffer it willingelye. Consider I praie 
you mother, for what a lawfull cause I shalbe slaine. 
(1166-74; 797-802) 

Her explanatory, appeasing tone is unlike the steeliness of Euripides' figure, 
who is "resolved to die" ("KaTÔaveîv \iév \ioi ôeôoKxai" [1375]) and who 
exhorts her mother to mark how well she says so: "oK8i|;ai . . ., jxf^xep, cbç 
KaÀœç Xeyco" (1377). Euripides' Iphigeneia proclaims that one man is 
"worthier than ten thousand women" (1394) and that a woman shall not 
"thwart the will divine" (1396). While Lumley may have been misled by 
Erasmus's "many thousands" ("quam multa sane foeminarum millia" [1181 
D]) in miscalculating "one noble man [to be] better than a thousand women" 
(1 197-98; 816), or may simply have "thought the comparison excessive,"^^ 
her Iphigeneia not only insists on the reasoning behind the divine dictate but 
also resolutely tries to annul any male (as opposed to female) contravention: 
"seinge my deathe is determined amongste the goddes, trulie no mortall man 
oughte to witstande it" (1199-1201; 817-18). Purkiss may be severe in 
suggesting that Lumley is "more misogynistic than Euripides,"^^ but clearly 
Lumley's Iphigeneia sees her death as patient suffering for a lawful cause. 
Futhermore, an ambivalence about the value or disposability of a woman's 
life is at the heart of this tragedy, in which the liberty of the heroine to offer 



36 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



her life and thereby be the only one to win the day subverts commonplaces 
about a woman's negligible worth. 

The most noticeable attenuations in Lumley's text concern the sacrifice 
itself. Here, more than at any other moment in the drama, the difficulties of 
expressing the extraordinary concepts of human acceptance of and witness to 
death ("martyr" literally means "witness") appear to be pressing heavily on 
the adolescent translator. Her strategy in staging the climax is to have 
recourse to plain, unadorned facts, to rein in any tendency to histrionics in 
this most grisly, tragic, inevitable yet incredible event. Her Iphigeneia is de- 
termined to "suffer . . . paciently all this troble" (1211; 824-25), a resolve that 
positions her very differently from the "noble" ("yevvaioç" [1402]) role 
played by Euripides' heroine. With a resignation emphasizing compliance 
more than protest, and with a literalness devoid of poetry, her Iphigeneia bids 
farewell: "I shalbe compelled by and by to forsake you all and to chaunge my 
life" (1316-18; 906-7). Lumley may have deduced the idea of compulsion 
from Erasmus's depiction of being soon forced into eternity, of living in an- 
other world: 

Altenim mox alterum 

Exigemus aevum, 

Orbem alterum incolemus. (1 184 A) 

Her Iphigeneia' s leave-taking is without the evanescence, mystery and 
beauty of Euripides' evocation of "a strange new life [where she] must 
dwell" ("ÀajiTiaôoûxoç à^xepa Aïoç le (^éyyoc,'' [1506-7]). Lumley's 
details of the death are minimal, excluding Euripides' mention of the seer 
laying down "a keen knife which his hand had drawn/Out of its sheath 
(1566-67) and of the priest scanning "her throat for fittest place to strike 
(1579). Lumley presents the miracle of Iphigeneia's disappearance, the 
crowd's echoing cry and the sighting of the gasping hind, described by 
Euripides as "most huge to see and fair to view" ( 1 588), in factual reportage: 

And whan all they meruelinge at it, began to giue a greate 
skritche, then ther appeared unto them a white harte lienge 
before the aultor, strudgelinge for life. (1368-71 ; 940-43) 

Euripides' substitution of a wild animal, a hart or mountain hind, for the 
customarily sacrificed domestic animal is a doubly ironic gesture. Not only is 
the substitute itself a substitute (wild instead of domestic), but it also reverses 
the sacrificial economy. As Nicole Loraux observes, "untamed nature has 
irresistiblv made its way into the heart of the sacrifice.'"*^ 



Î5 



Patricia Demers / On First Looking into Lumiey's Euripides / 37 



Lumley does make two adjustments to her originals in translating this 
sequence. On hearing Iphigeneia's last words of self-sacrifice for the sake of 
national glory, the crowd, in Lumiey's version, "weare wonderfullye 
astonied at the stoutenes of her minde" (1354-55; 932). Euripides' crowd 
marvelled at the virgin's "courage" and "heroism" ("€i)i|;uxiav xe KàpeTfjv 
TTjç TiapÔEVou" [1562]), and Erasmus's crowd at her lofty soul ("virginalis 
animi celsitudinem" [1185 A]), but Lumley draws special attention to the 
fullness and tenacity of her heroine's intellect. Lumiey's Agamemnon is cer- 
tain his daughter "is placed in heuen" ( 1 40 1 ; 964); this conviction, though in- 
debted more to Erasmus's Christian assurance that Iphigeneia is waiting for 
God to bring about her companionship with heaven-dwellers ("certum est, 
coelitum/Illam in Deum manere contubemio" [1 186 D]) than to Euripides' 
pagan concept of her "fellowship with Gods" ("év ôeoîç ô|xiA.iav" [1622]), 
distils with declarative simplicity the apotheosis of the virgin-martyr. 
Provisionally, but without obscuring the fact that victory has depended on 
violence, this Christian conclusion places the perplexity of a daughter's 
destruction in an eschatological context. 

What claim to our attention has this early modern translation of a Greek 
tragedy by a virtually unknown adolescent?"*^ I would suggest at least two. 
First, the daring of the enterprise deserves note, but not as the prelude to a se- 
ries of condescending derogations. Here is a young woman attempting an 
amazingly stout-minded feat. Does the fact that the play was a gift for her 
father, who had furnished the means for her education, alter the accomplish- 
ment? Does this disclosure locate the translation within the realm of a 
"degraded activity" which "deprived [women] of any original voice,'"*^ or 
confirm that subjectivity entails "subscription to the society that only puts 
the instrument of rule — the pen — into the hand of citizens it has already 
ruled"?"*^ As a reflection of the opportunism, the debates about authority and 
the overlapping public and private spheres of mid-Tudor aristocratic life, is 
Iphigeneia effectively neutralized? Is Lady Lumley writing against the grain 
of or in full compliance with her upbringing? Some of these questions, more 
inflected by the late twentieth century than the mid-sixteenth, are impossible 
to answer with surety, but it is important that her work prompts them. She is 
her father's daughter, but not necessarily his creature. She enjoys the privi- 
leges, but is not unaware of the perils of noble rank. In Lady Lumiey's Tudor 
translation of a fifth-century BCE tragedy, the allusions to her time are suit- 
ably, adroitly oblique. She positions Agamemnon, the strategist king, in 
enough shadow to caution against uncritical encomium or clear parallels 
with her own family. 



38 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



That the play-text was not intended for performance and that the transla- 
tion relies more on Erasmus's Latin than Euripides' Greek are not arguments 
for Lumley's faulty or dishonest commitment. Though a singular and rarely 
heard voice, she was part of a scholarly tradition. As Marta Straznicky re- 
minds us, "roughly 150 closet plays were written between 1500 and 1660"; 
the genre, Straznicky contends, has been "virtually reinvented with the re- 
cent surge in work on early modem women writers," broadening to include 
"the literary traditions in which these women wrote" and "the political im- 
portance of this purportedly cloistered genre.'"*^ As for Lumley's use of 
Erasmus as an aid, she was hardly resorting to a crib or underhandedly pla- 
giarizing the Dutch humanist's work; moreover, her translations of Isocrates 
from Greek to Latin, possibly undertaken alongside Erasmian translations,"^^ 
tend to confirm Lumley's interest in the moral issues of government and au- 
thority. 

The play's second claim to our attention is in heightening our awareness 
of the role of paraphrastic translation as an early example of a hybrid genre. 
Here is Euripides filtered through the eyes of a widely read, capable, pro- 
tected early modem young woman, whose domestic idiom, distinctive word 
choices, misconstruals, deliberate exclusions and sometimes softened, 
sometimes heightened tragic details convey the blended experience of the 
Greek and Latin texts. We can only conjecture whether Lady Lumley felt al- 
lied with or totally removed from Iphigeneia. Did the abnormality of the 
play's events provide her with a catharsis similar to the one undergone by the 
ancient Athenian audience? The concept of blendedness applies not just to 
the combination of ancient and Tudor texts but to the linkages between early 
modem and postmodem sensibilities. How do we respond to or appropriate 
Lady Lumley's work? I have sketched some possibilities. Without building 
an estimate of her on "restrictive categories and competitive hierarchies,'"*^ 
it is both feasible and illuminating to attend to this translation as the product 
of a unique intelligence and distillation of circumstances. Such attention en- 
courages us to view translation as a reading or rewriting of a text that creates 
its own originality; it concentrates less on so-called fidelity — which, as 
Walter Benjamin (in the tradition of Pound) has remarked, "impedes the ren- 
dering of the sense" — but allows the reader to perceive how "a translation 
touches the original lightly and only at the infinitely small point of the sense, 
thereupon pursuing its own course according to the laws of fidelity in the 
freedom of linguistic flux.'"*^ 



University of Alberta 



Patricia Demers / On First Looking into Lumley's Euripides / 39 



Notes 

1 . Sometimes called Isocrates' "Cyprian" orations, the orations Lady Lumley translates are 
addressed to noteworthy inhabitants of Cyprus — one to Demonicus, a young man whose 
father had recently died, on the topic of practical ethics, and two to Nicocles, the young 
king, on a ruler's conduct toward his people and on the duties of subjects. The fourth is an 
epideictic oration eulogizing Nicocles' father, Evagoras. See Isocrates, trans. G. Norlin, 3 
vols. (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1928), vols. I and IIL 

2. Henry Fitzalan, bom in 1513, embodied the sense of action in his motto, "virtutis laus 
actio"; diplomat, administrator, strategist and man of letters, he was "of due «& comely pro- 
portion, strong of bone, . . . void of fogginess or fatness" (BL MS Royal 17. A. ix. 36). He 
served as Deputy-General of Calais for four years (following which he was created Earl of 
Arundel), commander at the siege of Boulogne and Lord Steward of the Household for ten 
years stretching through the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. A Catholic, he supported 
Northumberland's plans for the coronation of Lady Jane Grey and then, when the tide 
turned, adroitly positioned himself in Queen Mary's Council. Elizabeth appointed him 
Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 1559, but after a few months he resigned; how- 
ever, she rebuffed this widower as a suitor. He was sent to prison twice — to the Tower be- 
cause of his support of the re-marriage of his son-in-law, the Duke of Norfolk, to Mary, 
Queen of Scots, and to the Marshalsea for his suspected involvement in the Ridolfi plot. 
Having survived all his children and his two wives, Arundel died in London in 1580. See 
James E. Doyle, The Official Baronage of England, 3 vols. (London: Longmans, Green & 
Co., 1 886), I: 8 1-83; Neville Williams, Thomas Howard Fourth Duke of Norfolk (London: 
Barrie and Rockliff, 1964). 

3. Harold H. Child, éd., Iphigenia atAulis Translated by Lady Lumley (London: Malone Soci- 
ety, 1 909), p. vi. All citations from Lumley's play will include references to both this edition 
and that of Diane Purkiss in Three Tragedies by Renaissance Women, Penguin Renaissance 
Dramatists (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1998). 

4. Purkiss, p. xxiv. See The Lumley Library: The Catalogue of 1609, ed. Sears Jayne and Fran- 
cis Johnson (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1956), nos. 1591a and 1736a, pp. 
191, 205. 1591a is an edition (Cologne, 1519) of Erasmus's translation of Euripides' 
Hecuba and Iphigeneia. 1736a (Louvain, 1520), an edition of both plays in Greek, contains 
the "Lumley" signature below that of Thomas Cranmer ("Thomas Cantuarium") on the title 
page. The marginal notes in Hecuba and Iphigeneia are in different hands; those in Hecuba 
are mainly in Greek, while those in Iphigeneia add explanatory words in Greek and Latin 
marginally and interlinearly, cite Erasmus's translation as a kind of aide-mémoire in the 
margins and represent the work of someone attempting to translate the Greek. A 
comparison of this hand and that of Lady Lumley indicates significant differences in letter 
formation; hence, despite the intriguing possibility, these notations are likely not Lady 
Lumley's. 

5. Purkiss, pp. xxiv-xxv. 

6. Ibid, p. xxxviii. 

7. George Ballard, Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain Who Have Been Celebrated 
for Their Writings or Skill in the Learned Languages, Arts and Sciences (Oxford: W. Jack- 
son, 1752), p. 180. Ballard is citing Erasmus, Ep. 31, Lib. 19: "scena rerum humanarum 
invertitur . . . Foeminae libris indulgent." 



40 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



8. Nicholas Udall, "To the most vertuous Ladie and most gracious Quene Katherine ...,*' 
Preface to the Paraphrase of Erasmus upon the gospell ofsainct John, The First Tome or 
Volume of the Paraphrase of Erasmus upon the Newe Testament (London: Edward 
Whitchurche, 1 548), fol. cccxcix. Queen Katherine Parr commissioned Udall as the general 
editor of this translation, a project which her step-daughter, Mary Tudor, had undertaken 
until ill health forced her to stop. 

9. Among the young Elizabeth's lost works are a translation into Latin of a play by Euripides 
and a translation of two orations of Isocrates; see Horace Walpole, A Catalogue of the Royal 
and Noble Authors of England, 2 vols. (London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1759), L 31. 

10. Elaine Beilin, Redeeming Eve: Women Writers of the English Renaissance (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1987), p. 156. 

11. Barry Weller and Margaret Ferguson, eds.. The Tragedy of Mariam, the Fair Queen of 
Jewry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 26, 27. 

12. Beilin, p. 157. 

13. Euripidis Iphigenia in Aulide, e Graeco Sermone in Latinum Traducta, Desiderio Erasmo 
Roterdamo Interprète, Opera Omnia in Decem Tomos Distincta (Leiden: Petri Vander, 
1703; rpt. London: Gregg Press, 1962), L 1155-86. All quotations from Erasmus's 
Iphigenia will be based on this text. 

1 4. David H. Greene, "Lady Lumley and Greek Tragedy," The Classical Journal, 36 ( 1 94 1 ), p. 
547. 

15. Frank D. Crane, "Euripides, Erasmus, and Lady Lumley," The Classical Journal, 39 
(1944), p. 227. 

16. Ibid, p. 228. 

17. Two entries in the Lumley Catalogue concern this manuscript juvenilia: no. 1743 
("Exercises in Greek and Latin of Lorde Maltravers and ladie Lumley, done when thei were 
yoonge, of their owne hand wrytinge") and no. 1753 ("Exercises and translations out of 
Greeke into latin and otherwise of Marie Duchesse of Suffolke, Jane ladie Lumley, and Sir 
John Ratclif when they were yonge, of their owne hande wrytinge, bound up together"); see 
Jayne and Johnson, pp. 206, 207. 

18. Ibid, p. 4. 

19. Ibid, p. 5. 

20. Purkiss, p. xv. 

21. Domestic information about Lady Lumley is scarce. Her three children, Charles, Thomas 
and Mary, died in infancy. Her presence was noted at public events: at Mary's coronation 
and at the funeral of her sister, the Duchess of Norfolk; see Williams, p. 34. Lady Lumley 
was the recipient of an exquisitely illuminated vellum manuscript of Latin sayings collected 
by Sir Nicholas Bacon for his own gallery at Gorhambury and presented as a token of his 
high regard for the mistress of Nonsuch mansion. In the chancel of the church at Cheam in 
Surrey, her black marble burial monument of the "late medieval type" depicts an aristocrat 
at prayer, with two male children and a female child close by, above an inscription com- 
memorating her piety, moral virtues and true nobility: "Praestans Pietatis studio, virtutum 
officiis, et vera nobilitatis gloria"; see Judith W. Hurtig, "Death in Childbirth: Seven- 



Patricia Demers / On First Looking into Lumley's Euripides /41 



teenth-Century Englisli Tombs and Their Place in Contemporary Thought,'" Art Bulletin. 65 
(1983), p. 610, and Ballard, p. 122. 

22. Mary Thomas Crane, Framing Authority: Sayings, Self, and Society in Sixteenth-Century 
England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 91. 

23. Purkiss, p. 168. 

24. Mary Thomas Crane, p. 90. 

25. Jayne and Johnson, p. 7. For further information on Lord Lumley and Spenser's possible 
acquaintance with Lumley's collection at Tower Hill, see W. H. Welply, "Literary and 
Historical Notes: John, Baron Lumley, 15347-1609," Notes and Queries, 141 (1941), pp. 
86-88. 

26. Elizabeth McCutcheon, ed. and trans.. Sir Nicholas Bacon 's Great House Sententiae, Eng- 
lish Literary Renaissance Supplements 3 (Claremont, CA: University of Hawaii and Sir 
Francis Bacon Foundation and Library, 1977), p. 5. 

27. Pearl Hogrefe, Tudor Women: Commoners and Queens (Ames: Iowa State University 
Press, 1975), p. 106. 

28. C. A. E. Luschnig, Tragic Aporia: A Study of Euripides ' Iphigenia atAulis (Berwick, Vic- 
toria, Australia: Aureal Publications, 1988), p. 5. 

29. Nicole Loraux, Tragic Ways of Killing a Woman, trans. A. Foster (Cambridge, MA: Har- 
vard University Press, 1987), p. 43. 

30. Frank D. Crane, p. 224. 

31. Euripides, with an English translation by A. S. Way, 4 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard 
University Press, 1912), vol. 1. Quotations from Iphigeneia atAulis will be based on this 
text, with references to Way's translation incorporated parenthetically. 

32. On the strict estimate of line length (an easier task for Euripides' verse than for Lumley's 
prose, especially given the different font types), the Malone text is roughly 87% of the 
Greek, and the Penguin text is 61%; an average of these two percentages yields the 
calculation — based solely on number of lines — that Lumley's play is three-quarters the 
length of Euripides'. 

33. Udall, "To the lentel Christian reader," op. cit., sig. A.i. 

34. Frank D. Crane, p. 227. However, Crane wastes no time with this possible "excuse" for 
Lumley's mistake, but hammers home the conclusion that "her version succeeds only in 
reducing high tragedy to a mediocre tale of 'troble'" (p. 228). 

35. Before the addition of Cranmer's books, the Lumley Library contained many Bibles — in 
Latin (Antwerp, 1526; Paris, 1532; Paris, 1540; Venice, 1544; Paris, 1545), Greek 
(Strasbourg, 1526; Basel, 1545), Hebrew (Venice, 1525-28), and French (Louvain, 1550), 
as well as a polyglot version (Basel, 1549) and one with the Latin commentary of the 
Venerable Bede (Basel, 1533); see Jayne and Johnson, pp. 48-53. 

36. F. F. Bruce quotes More' s A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, The English Bible: A History 
of Translations (London: Lutterworth Press, 1961), p. 22. 

37. MS. Bodley 959. Genesis-Baruch in the Earlier Version of the Wycliffite Bible, ed. Conrad 
Lindberg, 5 vols. (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1965), IV: 306; Biblia Sacra luxta 



42 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Vulgatam Versionem, recensuit Robertus Weber, 2 vols. (Stuttgart: Wiirttembergische 
Bibelanstalt, 1969). 

38. Beilin, p. 314. 

39. Purkiss, p. 173. 

40. Loraux, p. 35. 

41. This designation itself is admittedly anachronistic; see Sara Mendelson and Patricia 
Crawford, Women in Early Modern England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 78-79. 

42. M. E. Lamb, "The Cooke Sisters: Attitudes toward Learned Women in the Renaissance," 
Silent but for the Word: Tudor Women as Patrons, Translators, and Writers of Religious 
Works, ed. M. Hannay (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1985), pp. 116, 125. 

43. Jonathan Goldberg, "Hamlet's Hand," Shakespeare Quarterly, 39 (1988), p. 311. 

44. Marta Straznicky, "Recent Studies in Closet Drama," Studies in the English Renaissance. 
28 (1998), pp. 142, 159. 

45. The Lumley library contained six separate editions of Isocrates in both Latin and Greek 
(numbers 1889, 1894, 1952, 1991, 2068, 2082 in the catalogue) before the acquisition of 
Cranmer's two texts of Erasmian translations (numbers 1 189, 1740). See Jayne and John- 
son, pp. 219, 220, 225, 228, 236, 237, 150, 206. 

46. Margaret J. M. Ezell, Writing Women 's Literary History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Uni- 
versity Press, 1993), p. 165. 

47. Walter Benjamin, "The Task of the Translator," Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. 
Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), pp. 78, 80. 



Le Dialogo de la bella 

creanza de le donne (1539) 

d'Alessandro Piccolomini 

et ses adaptateurs français 



CLAUDE 
LA CHARITÉ 



Résumé: En 1572, sous le titre ^'Instruction pour les jeunes dames, Marie de 
Romieu donne la première traduction française du Dialogo de la bella creanza 
de le donne (1539) d'Alessandro Piccolomini, dans lequel une dame d'expé- 
rience amène insensiblement une jeune mariée insatisfaite à envisager une 
relation adultère. Les contemporains T.D.C. et François d'Amboise interprètent 
cette traduction, qui supprime le caractère parodique de V original italien, 
comme une attaque portée contre le néoplatonisme. Ils réagissent en faisant 
paraître coup sur coup deux adaptations réécrivant le dialogue de jeunesse de 
Piccolomini de sorte à réhabiliter le modèle de la donna di palazzo. 

Le Dialogo de la bella creanza de le donne (1539) d'Alessandro Piccolo- 
mini a connu une réception dans la France du seizième siècle qui, pour 
avoir été tardive,^ n'en a pas moins été riche. En effet, plus de 30 ans après 
sa parution originale en Italie, trois traducteurs se sont assigné comme tâche 
de rendre en français le dialogue que la critique intitulera plus tard, d'après 
le personnage de la mère, la Raffaella. Il s'agit, dans l'ordre chronologique, 
de Marie de Romieu avec l'Instruction pour les jeunes dames (1572), d'un 
certain T.D.C. avec le Notable discours (1577) et de François d'Amboise 
avec les Dialogues et devis des damoiselles (1581).^ On notera au passage 
qu'aucun des trois ne prend la peine de préciser la source italienne ni qu'il 
s'agit d'une traduction, voire d'une adaptation. À l'aide du Devis de la 
langue françoyse (1559) d'Abel Mathieu, disciple d'Etienne Dolet, nous 
voudrions caractériser chacune de ces traductions pour mettre à jour les 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 1 (1999) /43 



44 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



visées qui ont amené les traducteurs à adopter des perspectives traductolo- 
giques différentes. 

Dans la première partie de son Orateur Francoys inachevé, Etienne 
Dolet énonce les cinq règles qui garantissent à ses yeux la qualité d'une 
traduction. Outre ce qui va de soi, c'est-à-dire la connaissance approfondie 
de l'une et l'autre langue et l'interdiction de recourir aux latinismes dans une 
traduction du latin vers le français, l'imprimeur lyonnais prescrit deux règles 
complémentaires: soit, d'après la numérotation du traité de Dolet, la tierce 
règle, suivant laquelle le traducteur doit pouvoir jouir d'une liberté suffisam- 
ment grande pour ne pas s'astreindre à rendre mot à mot ou vers à vers le 
texte original, et la cinquième règle, suivant laquelle le traducteur doit 
respecter les nombres oratoires, c'est-à-dire essentiellement les périodes: 
"assavoir une liaison, et assemblement des dictions avec telle douceur, que 
non seulement l'ame s'en contente, mais aussi les oreilles d'une telle 
harmonie de langage."^ Or, c'est précisément cette double contrainte que 
systématisera Abel Mathieu dans son Devis en invitant les "doctes tradui- 
sans" à s'appliquer à suivre, selon l'analyse de Norton, les rythmes respira- 
toires du texte source, tout en les aménageant au besoin selon les propriétés 
de la langue de traduction."^ Cette double exigence de non-littéralisme et de 
respect du nombre oratoire fait résider tout l'art de la traduction dans 
l'utopique juste milieu de ces deux tendances contradictoires. Or, chaque 
traducteur doit choisir son camp, en privilégiant l'une des deux tendances 
au détriment de l'autre, ce qui ne veut pas dire à l'exclusion de l'autre. 

Longueur, respect du nombre oratoire et non-littéralisme 

D'entrée de jeu, une remarque s'impose sur la longueur des trois adaptations 
françaises: la version de T.D.C. et celle de François d'Amboise sont trois 
fois plus longues que celle de Marie de Romieu. On peut juger de la fidélité 
à l'original italien d'après la longueur: Marie de Romieu suit assez scrupu- 
leusement le texte italien, alors que ses deux contemporains s'en inspirent 
très librement. En outre, Marie de Romieu, traduisant pour la première fois 
la Raffaella, se trouve en quelque sorte contrainte à suivre de près Piccolo- 
mini. Ses contemporains décalqueront sa traduction plutôt que de retourner 
systématiquement à l'original. Parmi ses successeurs, non seulement T.D.C. 
suit Marie de Romieu, mais François d'Amboise suit à son tour T.D.C. En 
fait, plus on avance dans le temps, plus la traduction s'éloigne de l'original 
italien, les traductions s' imitant l'une l'autre et s' enrichissant d'ajouts suc- 
cessifs à chaque étape. 



Claude La Charité / Le Dialogo de la bella creanza de le donne 1 45 



Ainsi, T.D.C., dans son épître dédicatoire à Mademoiselle C. D. B. — 
la réception française de la Raffaella regorge de cryptonymes^ — , retrace 
les circonstances dans lesquelles l'intention lui est venue de faire paraître sa 
traduction française intitulée Notable discours en forme de Dialogue tou- 
chant la vraye etparfaicte amitié: 

... de tout temps ay esté curieux rechercher ce qui me sembloit propre à la nourriture 
de l'esprit, et ayant repeu ce peu qu'il a pieu à Dieu m'en donner, d'une grande multitude 
et diversité de lectures, je n'ay aperceu qu'il aye pris plus grand contentement à chose 
quelconque qu'à la lecture d'un euvre n'a gueres tombé entre mes mains, qui est un 
Dialogue François de l'institution des Dames et Damoyselles, pour les rendre heureuses 
d'une honneste et parfaicte amitié. . . . Donc après avoir reveu et corrige le present 
Dialogue, (j'ai désiré] pour le bien et utilité des Damoyselles le mettre en lumière. 

L'adaptateur avoue donc tout de go qu'il a suivi la traduction de son 
prédécesseur. Cependant, l' épître induit le lecteur en erreur, en lui donnant 
à penser que les retouches de T.D.C. sont mineures et de peu de conséquence. 
Pourtant, le texte voit son volume triplé et son sens très profondément 
modifié. La correction prend en fait l'ampleur d'une réécriture complète, 
seules quelques expressions isolées subsistant çà et là. L' "ampliation" prend 
des proportions telles que l'entretien entre les deux dames, qui ne durait que 
quelques heures en italien et dans la traduction de Marie de Romieu, se 
répartit, chez François d' Amboise, en deux dialogues correspondant à deux 
journées. 

Pour sa part, François d'Amboise reprend non seulement le travail de 
T.D.C, mais également celui de Marie de Romieu, car il reproduit le sonnet 
liminaire de V Instruction pour les jeunes dames, dont l'incipit se lit "N'ap- 
prochez point d'icy. Censeurs," en tête de sa version intitulée Dialogues et 
devis des damoiselles pour les rendre vertueuses et bien-heureuses en la 
vraye et parfaicte amitié. Cette fois, ce n'est pas l' épître dédicatoire mais 
bien le sous-titre de la page frontispice qui nous renseigne sur les change- 
ments opérés par le gentilhomme picard: 

DIALOGUES ET DEVIS DES DAMOISELLES . . . Contenons plusieurs bons 
enseignemens, très-utiles et profitables à toutes personnes: enrichis de quelques 
histoires facétieuses, et discours de la nature d'amour, pour bien et honnestement se 
gouverner en toutes compagnies. 

L'adaptateur ici ne se cache derrière aucune révision d'un texte antérieur; il 
admet avoir "amplié" le dialogue d'histoires facétieuses et d'une théorie sur 
la nature de l'amour. 



46 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



A considérer les trois traductions au niveau macrotextuel, on peut opérer 
une première typologie en fonction des règles d'Etienne Dolet. Marie de 
Romieu s'applique à rendre les nombres oratoires, en se permettant rarement 
de s'éloigner du texte. Au contraire, T.D.C. et François d' Amboise fondent 
leur traduction sur le non-littéralisme et sur cette liberté accordée au traduc- 
teur de ne pas rendre vers à vers ou mot à mot, c'est-à-dire, si nous extrapolons 
au cas spécifique du dialogue, réplique à réplique. En termes modernes, nous 
dirions que Marie de Romieu a donné une traduction de la Raffaella, alors que 
T.D.C. et François d' Amboise l'ont adaptée. Voyons un peu comment ces deux 
tendances contradictoires s'actualisent dans les textes. 

Analyse microtextuelle des trois traductions 

L'un et l'autre parti pris traductologique affectent de façon significative le 
sens du dialogue entre mère et fille en français. Prenons comme exemple 
l'ouverture du dialogue, soit les huit premières répliques. Piccolomini écrit: 

M[adonna]R[affaelIal: Dio ti dia il buon di Margarita, mai si stanno coteste mani, che 
sempre ti truovo à lavorare è ricamar qualche cosa. 

Marg[arita]: O ben venga madonna Raffaella, n'è pur tempo che voi veniate à star una 
volta da me, che n'è di voi? 

M.R.: Peccati è fatica, come de le vecchie, che vuoi che ne sia? 

Marg.: Sedete un poco qui da me. Come la fate? 

M.R.: Vecchia, pavra piu che mai, col capo ne la fossa d'hor' in hora. 

Marg.: V, non dite cosi, che ne vanno cosi i gioveni come i vecchi quando Dio vuole. 

M.R.: Il morir m'importarebbe poco, piu presto hoggi che domani, che in ogni modo 
che ci ho da fare in questo mondo? E la poverta anchora à l'ultimo à l'ultimo me la 
reccherei in patientia, ben che sia durissima cosa lo esser povero à chi è nato nobilmente 
come son'io, ma quel che mi duole è ch'io mi veggo piena di peccati, e ogni giorno ne 
fo piu. 

Marg.: O che diranno le altre, se io vi tengo una santa, pensate di haver tanti peccati, E 
che peccati potete voi mai havere, che vi veggo sempre con pater nostri in mano, e vi 
State tutto'l giorno per queste chiese?^ 

Voici maintenant comment Marie de Romieu ouvre son Instruction pour les 
jeunes dames: 

M.: DIEU gard la belle: et bien, trouvera-je tousjours ces délicates mains a l'ouvrage et 
sans prendre repos? 

F.: O ma bonne femme, vous soyez la bien venue: il est tantost temps, ce me semble, 
que j' aye ce bien de vous veoir une pauvre fois. Comment vous va? 



Claude La Charité / Le Dialogo de la bella creanza de le donne 1 47 



M.: Comblée de péchez, de fascheries et incommoditez qu'apporte la vieillesse, que 
voulez vous que je sois? 

F.: Asséez vous ung peu icy auprès de moy, carj'ay bien envie vous gouverner, et sçavoir 
comme vous vous portez. 

M.: Vielle, fascheuse plus que jamais, ayant desja ung pied dans la fosse. 

F.: O ne dittes pas cela, quand Dieu veult les jeunes s'en vont aussi bien comme les 
vieux. 

M.: Il ne me chault pas de mourir, et plustost aujourdhuy que demain, aussi bien que 
fais-je plus en ce monde? mais ce qui plus me desplaist, est me veoir chargée de péchez 
qui s'augmentent de jour en jour. 

F.: Helas, que doibvent donc dire les autres, si vous, que j'estime pour une saincte, pensez 
avoir tant de péchez? Et quelz péchez povez vous tant avoir, qui ne bougez tout du long 
du jour des églises et tousjours des patenostres en la main? 

Force nous est d'admettre la relative fidélité que la traductrice entretient 
par rapport à l'original italien. Le nombre et l'ordre des répliques sont 
préservés. Les personnages se voussoient mutuellement, alors que, chez 
Piccolomini, seule la fille voussoyait la mère. Les noms des interlocuteurs, 
Raffaella et Margarita, disparaissent au profit de leur seule fonction sociale: 
la mère et la fille. L'anonymat ainsi donné aux personnages participe d'une 
tendance générale de la traduction à masquer les caractérisations trop pré- 
cises: les noms des personnages, les indications de lieu (en général. Sienne 
chez Piccolomini) ou de rang social se trouvent gommés, conférant au 
dialogue français une valeur plus universelle. C'est ainsi que la référence 
explicite à l'extraction noble de Raffaella, qui se trouve à la septième 
réplique ("ben che sia durissima cosa lo esser povero à chi è nato nobilmente 
come son'io") disparaît en français. En fait, cette tendance à la coupure vaut 
pour l'ensemble de la traduction. 

En somme, là où les deux adaptateurs contemporains allongent, Marie 
de Romieu coupe. La fidélité de la traductrice ne va pas jusqu'à rendre mot 
pour mot le texte de Piccolomini. Ainsi, comme le veut Mathieu, c'est avant 
tout la période, en un mot le rythme, plutôt que la lettre qui est respectée. Le 
souci du rythme dans la traduction du "Pace non trovo" de Pétrarque, dans 
les Premieres oeuvres poétiques (1581) de Marie de Romieu, se retrouve 
aussi dans la "translation" de la Raffaella. Bien entendu, il ne s'agit pas ici 
de la période oratoire cicéronienne, mais bien de la période dialogique telle 
que la définit Démétrius dans son De elocutione: "La période du dialogue 
... est une période encore plus lâche et plus simple que la période narrative; 
elle se manifeste à peine en tant que période. . . . Les cola sont jetés l'un sur 



48 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



l'autre, comme dans le style disjoint, et, une fois arrivés au terme, c'est à 
peine si nous avons pu découvrir dans la séquence finale que T énoncé était 
une période." ^^ Par exemple, dans le chleuasme que la mère emploie pour 
que la fille la démente, la gradation des termes est proportionnée à la 
longueur rythmique des mots qui va en s 'accroissant. Ainsi, en italien, nous 
avons: "Vecchia, povera più che mai, col capo nella fossa di ora in ora," ce 
qui donnerait littéralement "vieille, pauvre plus que jamais, avec la tête dans 
la fosse d'heure en heure." Sans conserver le sens exact, Marie de Romieu 
rend bien cependant le rythme: "Vieille, fascheuse plus que jamais, ayant 
desja ung pied dans la fosse." La traductrice s'attache à respecter le ton familier 
et le rythme haché de la conversation quotidienne du dialogue italien. 

Voyons ce qu'il en est de la traduction de T.D.C., dont nous ne citerons 
que les quatre premières répliques en raison de leur longueur: 

BEATRICE: Dieu vous doint le bon jour, Florimonde: et comment vous est il? Je ne 
vous treuve jamais que n'ayés entre les mains quelque bel ouvrage, digne de la beauté 
qui est en vous, et de la gentillesse d'un esprit tel que le vostre. Je vous viens dire le 
regret que j'ay eu ces jours passez à ne vous pouvoir visiter plus tost, et pour m'excuser 
si vous pensiés que mon amitié meritast d'en estre accusée de paresse ou peu de 
souvenance de son devoir. 

FLOR[IMONDE]: Je me trouve bien graces à Dieu, Madame Beatrice, comme celle 
qui ne se pourroit trouver mal, ayant ce bien d'estre avec vous. Le désir que j'ay eu par 
le passé de vous voir, et le plaisir que j'en sens maintenant, ne rendront point vostre faute 
telle qu'il luy soit besoing d'excuse ni de pardon, ayant trop de cognoissance de vostre 
fîdelle amitié, pour y faire doute de la souvenance. Le plaisir que j'ay que vous soyés 
icy venue sera d'autant plus grand que le désir en aura esté plus long, et l'ennuy de ne 
vous pouvoir voir plustost. Où avés vous esté cependant, et comme vous estes vous 
portée depuis le temps que je n'ay sceu avoir ce bien de vous voir céans? 

BEATR.: Je nay bougé de ceste ville mais l'indisposition qui est naturelle aux vieilles 
personnes comme moy qui ont desja un pied en la fosse, m'a retenu en la maison: et les 
jours que je me suis bien trouvée, il est escheu qu'il me les a fallu donner à mes parens, 
de sorte que je n'ay peu desrober nulle occasion de vous pouvoir plustost venir voir: 
mais vous scavés que tout cela n'empeschoit point que je ne fusse avec vous en esprit 
et bonne volonté. 

FLORIMONDE: Je vous en remercie madame Beatrice, je sçay que de vostre grace 
vous avez tousjours souvenance de moy, comme de l'une de vos plus asseurees et 
parfaictes amies. Je sçay aussi que vostre maladie et vieillesse sont cause souvent de me 
priver de ce contentement de vous voir, et du prouffit que je pourrois avoir à deviser 
avec vous, et vous ouyr parler.'' 

Première constatation: la période qui passait inaperçue chez Marie de Ro- 
mieu devient ici plus sensible. Mais ce n'est pas seulement le rythme qui se 



Claude La Charité / Le Dialogo de la bella creanza de le donne 1 49 



trouve modifié, c'est aussi le sens. On retrouve bien çà et là quelques 
expressions prises telles quelles à Marie de Romieu: "quelque bel ouvrage" 
fait écho à "ouvrage," "desja un pied en la fosse" est repris intégralement. 
Les ressemblances, cependant, s'arrêtent là. Si la mère et la fille se vous- 
soient comme chez Marie de Romieu, elles portent, par contre, des noms: 
Béatrice et Florimonde. Ces noms propres, que François d' Amboise réutili- 
sera à la suite de T.D.C., auront une belle fortune, puisqu'ils contamineront 
jusqu'à la traduction de Marie de Romieu qui, dans sa réédition de 1607, 
aura comme protagonistes non pas la mère et la fille mais bien Mariende et 
Florimonde. Le nombre et l'ordre des répliques ne correspondent en rien à 
l'original. La situation initiale se trouve elle aussi complètement boulever- 
sée. Dans le dialogue original, la remarque sur le travail de broderie que 
formule la mère prend le ton du reproche. Par cet étonnement qu'exprime la 
mère, elle insinue que la fille, avec toutes ses qualités, devrait trouver des 
occupations plus dignes que de s'user les mains à ce genre d'activités 
manuelles. Le lecteur comprendra beaucoup plus loin que ces occupations 
plus dignes consistent à entretenir un serviteur, en un mot, à avoir une 
relation adultère. 

Chez T.D.C., non seulement le reproche disparaît-il, mais, qui plus est, 
c'est le compliment qui prend le relais. Alors que dans la version italienne 
ce travail avilissant était indigne de la demoiselle, il devient ici le révélateur 
de la beauté intérieure et de la noblesse. En outre, la mère devance les 
reproches de la fille, en demandant dès la première réplique de bien vouloir 
l'excuser pour son manque d'assiduité. Plus conséquent encore nous appa- 
raît être le retournement complet qu'opère l'adaptateur en faisant prétexter 
à la mère d'élection non plus un mal moral mais une simple indisposition 
physique. On serait en droit de se demander l'importance d'un détail en 
apparence si anodin. L'importance est, en fait, de taille, puisque c'est à partir 
de ce mal moral, ce sentiment d'être pleine de péchés, que la mère d'élection 
donne à voir à sa fille tous les ravages que cause le manquement à sa 
pseudo-théologie du moindre mal. En effet, c'est bien parce que la mère n'a 
pas vécu de relation adultère dans sa jeunesse qu'elle ne peut plus venir voir 
cette jeune femme envers qui, de surcroît, elle estime ne pas s'acquitter de 
son devoir chrétien de conseillère, puisqu'elle n'ose pas la mettre en garde 
contre le péché mortel de ne pas commettre de peccadille dans sa jeunesse. 
En fait, dès le début, c'est toute cette rhétorique extrêmement habile et 
retorse de l'incitation à l'adultère qui se trouve ainsi désamorcée par ces 
retouches à première vue accessoires. On pressent déjà que le ton sera moins 



50 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



subversif et plus édifiant. Par ailleurs, le simple fait que nous n'ayons pas 
pu citer in extenso les huit premières répliques comme dans le cas de Marie 
de Romieu atteste bien l'allongement à la fois du texte et de la période qui 
prend des accents nettement oratoires avec une prolifération d'enchaîne- 
ments syntaxiques. 

Comparons maintenant avec la traduction de François d'Amboise: 

BEATRICE: On dit que qui a le temps, et ne l'employé, à peine le pourra-il recouvrer 
une autre fois. Le meilleur employ que l'on en puisse faire, c'est de visiter un endroit, 
puis l'autre, mesmement quand ce sont personnes qui le méritent. 

FLOR[IMONDE]: Je voy, ce me semble, venir vers moy madame Beatrice. Ouy, c'est 
elle-mesme. Je l'aime et respecte comme si c'estoit ma mere, principalement pour la 
bonté de son esprit, et sa longue experience es affaires du monde. Je luy vay au devant. 
Bonjour madame Beatrice. 

BEATR.: Dieu vous gard, mademoiselle Florimonde. Comment vous va? Que vous dit 
le coeur? Quel bel ouvrage avez vous là entre les mains? 

FLOR.: Toutes choses me vont à souhait, Dieu mercy et vous. 

BEATR.: Je vous viens visiter, et passer quelques heures de loisir avec vous. 

FLOR.: Je vous en suis d'autant plus obligee. Ces jours passez vous avez si soigneuse- 
ment gardé la chambre, que celle qui vous a peu voir s'est bien peu vanter d'estre 
grand 'Dame. 

BEAT.: Vieillesse est une maladie incurable: Les premiers ans font tort aux demiers: 
l'indisposition, qui est ordinaire aux personnes, comme moy, qui ont desja un pied en 
la fosse, m'a retenu en ma maison: et les jours que je me suis bien trouvée, il est escheu 
qu'il me les a fallu donner à mes parens, de sorte que je n'ay peu desrober l'occasion de 
vous pouvoir plustost venir voir: mais vous sçavez que tout cela n'empeschoit point que 
je ne fusse avec vous en esprit et bonne volonté. 

FLOR.: Je sçay que de vostre grace vous avez tousjours souvenance de moy, comme 
de l'une de voz plus asseurees et parfaittes amies. Je sçay aussi que vostre maladie et 
vieillesse, sont cause souvent de me priver de ce contentement de vous voir, et du profit 
que je pourrois avoir à deviser avec vous.^'^ 

Il semble que nous ayons affaire à une traduction complètement différente 
par rapport à celle de T.D.C. Il faut dire que l'ouverture est trompeuse à cet 
égard. Nous devrions dire délibérément trompeuse. Si les répliques sont plus 
nombreuses et s'enchaînent plus rapidement, très vite le texte décalque de 
très près celui de T.D.C. Les remaniements par rapport au Notable discours 
ne touchent pas directement le sens. La mise en scène du début paraît plus 
dramatique, puisque les deux premières répliques sont prononcées en aparté, 
les deux interlocutrices n'étant pas encore en présence l'une de l'autre. Par 
ailleurs, nous remarquons la même valorisation du travail de broderie, le 



Claude La Charité / Le Dialogo de la be lia creanza de le donne / 51 



même prétexte justifiant le manque d'assiduité de la mère: "l'indisposition, 
qui est ordinaire aux personnes, comme moy, qui ont desja un pied en la 
fosse." Par la suite, les répliques s'allongent de la même façon que chez 
T.D.C. En tout état de cause, tous ces remaniements ressemblent à un habile 
maquillage. Dans le reste du texte, les retouches concernent souvent le début 
ou la fin des répliques, ce qui, lorsque lu de biais, peut entretenir l'illusion 
qu'il s'agit d'une toute nouvelle traduction. Le titre apparaît lui aussi comme 
un maquillage, les Dialogues et devis des damoyselles ne faisant aucunement 
écho au Notable discours. 

Quand on ajoute à ces observations les privilèges d'imprimer qui 
prennent le relais les uns des autres ou se chevauchent, on a l'impression 
qu'il n'y a qu'un seul adaptateur derrière ces deux traductions: François 
d'Amboise, qui en offre la première mouture au Lyonnais Benoist Rigaud 
en 1577, puis qui, à l'expiration du privilège de trois ans, donne à Vincent 
Norment une version remaniée en 1581. Frustré par cette usurpation, par 
ailleurs parfaitement régulière, Benoist Rigaud décide sans doute en 1583 
de réimprimer telle quelle la première version, alors que cette même année, 
le parisien Robert Le Manguier réédite la seconde mouture. Cette impression 
est confirmée par \2i Bibliographie lyonnaise de Baudrier, qui indique en note 
que la traduction de 1583, parue chez Benoist Rigaud, pourtant signée 
T.D.C, est de François d'Amboise. ^^ Mais nous ne prétendons pas résoudre 
ici ce problème d'attribution. Il nous suffira, qu'il y ait eu ou non un seul 
adaptateur, de considérer qu'il n'existe qu'une seule autre traduction à part 
celle de Marie de Romieu, mais en deux états. Stylistiquement, la traduction 
présente de grandes affinités avec sa version antérieure, à tel point que l'on 
peut parler de style oratoire pour l'une et l'autre. Dans son Discours sur le 
dialogue (1586), Le Tasse, en décrivant le style des dialogues de Platon, 
précise que "tant dans la période que dans les autres parties, [il] rechercha 
la grandeur . . . [d]e sorte que l'on a dit de lui qu'il s'élevait de beaucoup 
au-dessus du parler pédestre, que son parler n'était ni tout à fait semblable 
au vers, ni tout à fait semblable à la prose et qu'il n'utilisait pas autrement 
son génie que les rois ne le faisaient de la puissance." ^"^ La même remarque, 
s'il est permis de comparer les petites choses aux grandes, pourrait être 
appliquée au Notable discours et aux Dialogues et devis. 

Néoplatonisme et réécriture 

D'où vient donc cette latitude que s'accordent T.D.C. et François d'Amboise 
dans la traduction de la Raffaellal Nous avons vu que leurs nouvelles 



52 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



traductions étaient justifiées par leur méthodologie radicalement opposée à 
celle que met en oeuvre Marie de Romieu. Nous avons vu aussi que 
r "ampliation" n'allait pas sans un certain infléchissement du sens. En fait, 
le Notable discours tout comme les Dialogues et devis s'attachent à désa- 
morcer la rhétorique retorse de l'adultère pour ramener le dialogue vers 
l'orthodoxie néoplatonicienne, d'où procède sans doute l'imitation du style 
senti comme typiquement platonicien par les renaissants: ornements de mot, 
figures de rhétorique, éclat oratoire. Pourtant, ce détournement de texte ne 
se fait pas sans une certaine légitimité. En effet, Dolet accorde au traducteur 
pour les passages dont le sens se révèle obscur la possibilité de lever cette 
ambiguïté en paraphrasant le passage et en faisant référence à l'ensemble de 
l'oeuvre de l'auteur traduit: "En premier lieu, il fault, que le traducteur 
entende parfaictement le sens, et matière de l'autheur, qu'il traduict: car par 
ceste intelligence il ne sera jamais obscur en sa traduction: et si l'autheur, 
lequel il traduict, est aulcunement scabreux, il le pourra rendre facile, et du 
tout intelligible."^^ Sans doute les adaptateurs portent-ils cette liberté à son 
comble, en étant infidèles à la Raffaella pour être mieux fidèles à l'ensemble 
de l'oeuvre de Piccolomini, rallié sur le tard au néoplatonisme. Il n'est pas 
indifférent que l'ami intime de François d'Amboise, Pierre de Larivey, ait 
traduit V Institution morale du même Piccolomini en 1581, la même année 
donc que paraissent les Dialogues et devis}^ 

Pourtant, on peut se demander pourquoi les adaptateurs se sont donné 
tant de mal pour contrecarrer les effets potentiellement dangereux d'un texte 
où on fait la promotion de l'adultère, alors que le néoplatonisme peut très 
bien s'en accommoder. En fait, ce n'est pas tant l'adultère qui pose problème 
que le point de vue moral et philosophique de la mère d'élection. Ce qui est 
plus problématique que l'amour extraconjugal, c'est la conception de l'a- 
mour parfaitement incamé, coupé de toute transcendance, purement terrestre 
— un amour humain donc qui n'est pas qu'un simple relais vers l'amour de 
Dieu. Par ailleurs, l'autre irritant majeur de la Raffaella, d'un point de vue 
néoplatonicien, consiste sans aucun doute dans la redéfinition de l'honneur 
que propose la mère à sa fille. L'honneur féminin tel que compris par la mère 
d'alliance n'est plus qu'une coquille vide, un faux-semblant fait pour trom- 
per autrui: ". . . [L] 'honneur ne consiste pas principalement a sçavoir si le 
fait est arrivé ou non: mais en l'opinion, et de croire qu'il sera advenu, ou 
de croire le contraire. Et ce d'autant que l'honneur n'est fondé en autre chose 
si non en la reputation et opinion parmy le monde." ^^ 



Claude La Charité / Le Dialogo de la bella creanza de le donne 1 53 



Nous nous contenterons ici d'indiquer les signes évidents de tentative 
de réhabilitation du néoplatonisme que Ton peut lire dans l'épître dédicatoire 
du Notable discours et des Dialogues et devis. T.D.C. déclare sans ambages 
qu'il n'existe pas d'aliment plus délicieux à l'esprit que la parfaite amitié 
qui nous rapproche des dieux: 

. . .jen 'estime point qu 'il se puisse treuver nourriture plus douce et delectable, fusse le 
nectar et ambrosie desquelz usent les dieux, ny plus propre et convenable à l'esprit 
lequel est descendu du Ciel, que l'amitié: laquelle estant divine et immortelle a non 
seullement excité l'esprit des hommes, mais semblablement esmeu et attiré a soy les 

18 

Dieux, comme nous lisons de Juppiter, Apollon et des autres. 

On comprend mieux ainsi que la révision et les corrections apportées à la 
traduction de Marie de Romieu aient atteint une telle ampleur, car, pour faire 
de la Raffaella un texte néoplatonicien, il fallait, à toute fin pratique, réécrire 
l'ensemble du dialogue. 

Chez François d'Amboise, la revendication néoplatonicienne se fait 
plus discrète mais on ne peut plus claire. Reprenant le lieu commun de Zeuxis 
choisissant cinq des plus belles jeunes filles pour peindre la beauté absolue, 
aucune ne réunissant en elle seule toutes les beautés, il fait l'apologie de 
l'idée parfaite, concept néoplatonicien par excellence, associant la dédica- 
taire à l'idée parfaite de la "gentille dame": 

MADAME, ce scavant ouvrier qui avoit entrepris de peindre pour un chef-d'œuvre 
l'excellent parangon de la Déesse de beauté, s'il revivoit encores aujourd'huy, iln'eust 
pas pris ceste peine de rechercher les graces singulières de tant de damoiselles, qu'il 
estoit contraint contempler en particulier, ains se fust contenté jettant l'oeil une fois 
pour toutes, sur les vostres plus qu'humaines perfections, de concevoir l'Idée de tout ce 
que les deux et la Nature ont jamais elabouré de beau et d'admirable. 

Par contraste, le prologue "Aux jeunes dames," placé en tête de V Instruction 
pour les jeunes dames, semble dépouillé de toute intention philosophique de 
ce genre, Marie de Romieu prétendant n'avoir écrit son ouvrage "que pour 
aider à celles de nostre sexe, qui par faulte de bon advertissement pourroyent 
manquer d'estre bien servies. "^^ 

Dans ce contexte, on comprend mieux la véritable prolifération des 
traductions françaises de la Raffaella dans la décennie 1572-1581. Face à 
une Instruction pour les jeunes dames fidèle à la Raffaella dans tout ce 
qu'elle a de subversif, T.D.C. et François d'Amboise interprètent ce texte 
comme une attaque portée contre le néoplatonisme. Ils réagissent en faisant 
paraître coup sur coup deux traductions réécrivant le dialogue de jeunesse 
de Piccolomini de sorte à en faire une véritable apologie du néoplatonisme. 



54 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



préférant le respectable vieillard qu'est l'archevêque de Patras, acquis au 
ficinisme, au jeune "stordito intronato"^^ échevelé, s 'amusant à ruer dans les 
brancards des modèles d'éducation féminine de son époque, soit la femme 
chrétienne et la donna dipalazzo?^ Pourtant, l'archevêque Piccolomini, qui 
a consacré les loisirs de sa vieillesse à la traduction et au commentaire 
d' Aristote, aurait sans doute désapprouvé cette licence que se sont accordée 
ses deux adaptateurs français. Dans son avant-propos aux Annotationi nel 
lihro délia Poeîica d'Aristotele (1575), il s'explique sur les raisons qui l'ont 
poussé à bien séparer la traduction de ses annotations. Cet avant-propos peut 
se lire comme un manifeste sur l'éthique du traducteur, qui ne doit jamais 
céder à la facilité d'imposer ses idées à l'auteur traduit: 

... le traducteur, en commentant, en paraphrasant ou en recourant à une manière d'écrire 
qui ne relève pas de la traduction, risque de se tromper en n'étant pas en accord avec 
l'esprit de l'auteur. Parce que dans ces adaptations nous sommes tentés de parler en notre 
propre nom, nous courons le risque de nous exposer à la réprimande d'un défaut qui est 
plutôt le nôtre que celui d'autrui. Ou par ignorance, ou par infidélité, alors que nous 
revêtons pour ainsi dire la personne de l'auteur en le traduisant et que nous parlons par 
sa personne et avec ses propres mots, nous commettons l'erreur de lui faire dire ce qu'il 
ne dit pas, ce qui ne nous expose pas nous-mêmes mais bien l'auteur lui-même aux 
reproches, et par conséquent nous nous acquérons la réputation de faussaire, ce qui est 
le blâme le plus déshonorant qui puisse être adressé à un homme. " 

Néanmoins, cette règle générale semble devoir être nuancée dans le cas 
précis du Dialogo de la hella creanza. Le fidèle disciple de Piccolomini, 
Girolamo Bargagli, explique, dans une lettre à l'imprimeur Paris Gianni, le 
contexte dans lequel le dialogue a été créé, à savoir à l'occasion des jeux de 
l'Académie des Intronati: "Il fit ce dialogue par plaisanterie et dans un accès 
de pensée juvénile, avec l'intention qu'il ne viendrait jamais à la connais- 
sance d'autres personnes que celles qui, à l'époque, avaient cet humour et 
qui goûtaient ces détails qui sont disséminés dans tout le dialogue."^"* Or, 
dans le contexte de l'académie siennoise, on pouvait rire du néoplatonisme 
comme d'une matière de bréviaire, tant tous ses membres y étaient acquis. 
Cependant, avec la parution de V Instruction pour les jeunes dames, on 
dépasse largement le cadre de cette petite communauté, et pour éviter les 
mauvaises interprétations, T.D.C. et François d'Amboise ont dû élaguer le 
caractère parodique et plaisant du texte, en surajoutant tout ce qu'il fallait y 
comprendre au premier degré. 

Université de Paris-Sorbonne 



Claude La Charité / Le Dialogo de la bella creanza de le donne 1 55 



Notes 

L Ce décalage n'est pas pour autant exceptionnel. Bien d'autres oeuvres italiennes n'ont été 
traduites en français que 30 ans après leur première réception italienne, à preuve le célèbre 
Hypnerotomachia Poliphili ( 1 499) dont Jean Martin ne donnera une version française qu ' en 
1546. 

2. À propos de la réception française de la Raffaella, voir l'excellent article de Daniela Costa, 
"La réception française de la Raffaella d'Alessandro Piccolomini: versions 'urbaines' et 
lectures 'erotiques'," Nouvelle Revue du XVI^ siècle, 14.2 (1996), pp. 237-46. On pourra 
également se reporter à l'introduction de l'édition critique des Dialogues et devis des 
damoiselles, procurée par la même Danielle Costa à la Société des Textes Français Modernes 
en 1998. Enfin, dans notre édition critique des oeuvres complètes de Marie de Romieu 
(Instruction pour les jeunes dames [Paris, Champion, à paraître en 2000]), nous proposons 
quelques éléments complémentaires à propos de la réception spécifique de V Instruction 
pour les jeunes dames. 

3. Etienne Dolet, La Manière de bien traduire d'une langue en aultre, fac-similé de l'édition 
princeps de 1540 (Sens, Obsidiane, 1990), t^ 9, r». 

4. À propos du concept central de nombre oratoire ("phrase") et de la nécessité de respecter 
les propriétés de chaque langue chez Abel Mathieu, voir Glyn P. Norton, The Ideology and 
Language of Translation in Renaissance France (Genève, Droz, 1984), pp. 247 et 255. Voir 
aussi le chapitre IV, "Le traducteur et l'auteur: 'servitude' et 'propriété' ," de Luce Guillerm, 
Sujet de l'écriture et traduction autour de 1540 (Paris, Aux amateurs de livre, 1988), pp. 
431-56. 

5. En effet, la traduction de Marie de Romieu n'est signée que "M.D.R.," ce qui amène Colette 
H. Winn à contester l'attribution du texte à Marie de Romieu, voir son article "La dignitas 
mulieris — les enjeux idéologiques d'une appropriation du XV^ au XVIF siècle," Études 
littéraires, 26.2 (1994), pp. 1 1-12. À notre avis, la traduction est pourtant bien de Marie de 
Romieu. Dans l'introduction de notre édition, nous exposons des preuves relevant tant de 
la critique interne (composition des Premieres oeuvres poétiques contemporaine de 
V Instruction pour les jeunes dames) que de la critique externe (les premières notices 
consacrées à la poétesse lui attribuent toutes le dialogue). Par ailleurs, le cryptonyme 
'T.D.C." n'a pas été déchiffré à ce jour. 

6. T.D.C, Notable discours en forme de Dialogue touchant la vraye etparfaicte amitié (Lyon, 
Benoist Rigaud, 1577), Aii, r^ et v®, Aiii, r^. 

7. Thierry de Timophile [François d' Amboise], Dialogues et devis des damoiselles pour les 
rendre vertueuses et bien-heureuses en la vraye etparfaicte amitié (Paris, Vincent Norment, 
1581), Ai, ro. 

8. [Alessandro Piccolomini], Dialogo de la bella creanza de le donne de lo stordito intronato 
(s.l., 1 540), Aiiii, r°. On pourra consulter l'édition itahenne moderne dans le recueil suivant: 
Trattati d'amore del Cinquecento, éd. Mario Pozzi (Bari, Laterza, 1980). Il existe une 
traduction française du dix-neuvième siècle assez fidèle, bien qu'elle renchérisse sur 
l'aspect licencieux du dialogue: La Raffaella. Dialogue de la gentille éducation des femmes. 
Par Alessandro Piccolomini Archevêque de Pat ras et Coadjuteur de Sienne (XV I^ siècle), 
trad. Alcide Bonneau (Paris, Isidore Liseux, 1884). 

9. M[arie] d[e] R[omieu], Instruction pour les jeunes dames (s.l., s.e., 1572), Aiiii, i^ et v°. 



56 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



10. Démétrios, Du style, trad. Pierre Chiron (Paris, Belles Lettres, 1993), p. 9, § 21. 

11. T.D.C., op. cit., Aiii, i^ à Av, v®. 

12. Thierry de Timophile [François d' Amboise], op. cit., Aiii, v^ à Av, v°. 

13. 'Traduction du Dialogo délia bella creanza d'Alex. Piccolomini, par François d' Amboise," 
Bibliographie lyonnaise, éd. Henri Baudrier et Julien Baudrier, réimpression de l'édition 
originale (Paris, F de Nobelle, 1964), III: 378. 

14. Le Tasse, Discours sur le dialogue, trad. Rorence Vuilleumier, coll. Le Corps Éloquent 
(Paris, Belles Lettres, 1992), pp. 84-85. 

15. Etienne Dolet, op. cit., f° 7, r^. 

1 6. Costa établit ce rapprochement entre les deux traductions dans l'article cité précédemment, 
p. 237. 

17. M[arie] d[e] R[omieu], op. cit., Eiii, r° et v°. À propos du modèle d'éducation parodique 
proposé par Piccolomini et repris par Marie de Romieu à son compte, voir l'article très 
éclairant de Marie-Françoise Piéjus, "Venus bifrons: le double idéal féminin dans La 
Raffaella d'Alessandro Piccolomini," Images de la femme dans la littérature italienne de 
la Renaissance: préjugés misogynes et aspirations nouvelles, éd. André Rochon (Paris, 
Université de la Sorbonne-Nouvelle, 1980), pp. 81-167. 

18. T.D.C., op. cit.. Mi, \^. 

19. Thierry de Timophile [François d' Amboise], op. cit., Aii, r^. 

20. M[arie] d[e] R[omieu], op. dr., Aii, v° et Aiii, r°. 

21. Surnom difficile à rendre en français à cause de la redondance: littéralement, il signifie 
"l'étourdi abasourdi." 

22. On a beaucoup écrit sur la prétendue rétractation de Piccolomini quant à son Dialogo. 
Néanmoins, il semble que le dialogue n'ait été qu'un intermède ludique et parodique, tout 
à fait conforme à l'esprit des jeux de l'Académie des Intronati, de telle sorte qu'il est difficile 
d'y lire une véritable attaque portée contre le néoplatonisme. À ce propos, voir l'article très 
suggestif d'Andréa Baldi, "La 'Raffaella' di Alessandro Piccolomini: il trattato vôlto in 
gioco," Passare il tempo: la letteratura del gioco e delV intrattenimento dal XII al XVI 
secolo, Atti del Convegno di Pienza 10-14 settembre 1991 (Rome, Salerno Editrice, 1993), 
pp. 665-77. 

23. La traduction française est de nous. Le texte italien se lit: ". . . se ô commentando, o 
parafrizando, o altro modo tenendo di scrivere, che non sia traduttione, ci accasca d'errare 
in non convenir con la mente dell' Autore; perche in tai modi seguiamo sempre di parlar' 
in persona nostra; veniamo à porre noi soli in pericolo di riprension di difetto, che sia più 
tosto nostro, che d'altri; ô d'ignorantia, ô di poca fede, ch'egli si sia dove che vestendoci 
noi nel tradurre la persona dell' Autore, & in persona di lui, & con le parole sue parlando; 
veniamo per questo, in ogni errore, che facciamo in dir quello, ch'egli non dice, à porre, 
non tanto noi, quanto l' autore stesso, in pericol d'esser ripreso; & per conseguente à noi 
stessi rechiamo addosso difetto di falsarii ; che più vituperoso difetto non sô, che posso venir' 
air huomo" (Alessandro Piccolomini, Annotationi di M. Alessandro Piccolomini nel libro 
délia Poetica d'Aristotele, con la traduttione del medesimo libro in lingua volgare . . . 
[Venise, G. Guarisco, 1575], t4, v^). 



Claude La Charité / Le Dialogo de la bella creanza de le donne 1 57 



24. Le texte original se lit: ". . . tanto più che la fece per uno scherzo et per uno sfogo di pensier 
giovenih, con intentione che non venisse mai in cognitione di altre persone che di quelle 
che havevano in quei tempi quello humore, e che gustavano di quei particolari dei quali è 
sparso tutto quel dialogo" (Baldi, op. cit., p. 674). 



Celebrating Difference: 

The Self as Double in the 

Works of Louise Labé 



CATHERINE 
M. MÛLLER 



Summary: This essay examines the figure of the double in Sonnet VIII of 
Louise Labé in relation to the theme of the androgyne in the Débat de Folie 
et d'Amour and in the light of the proto -feminist claims of her "Epttre 
Dédicatoire. " It suggests that the poet from Lyon, in inscribing dialogue at 
the very heart of her Oeuvres as the motive force of an écriture du plaisir, 
opposes herself to the literary tradition of her age and heralds the great 
debates of the twentieth century regarding sexual difference and literary 
subjectivity. 

Natalie Zemon Davis has shown that although it was rare for noblewomen 
to write and publish during the French Renaissance and Reformation, it 
was almost inconceivable for a middle-class woman to do so.^ Yet Louise 
Labé, daughter and wife of ropemakers, encouraged by the somewhat 
open-minded environment of the great humanistic city of Lyon and com- 
pelled by a desire to show the public that it was time for women's voices to 
be heard, published her complete works in her own name with the best known 
publishing house of the time. In 1555, her Oeuvres came out in Lyon with 
the prestigious "Privilège du Roy" she had requested, i.e., an exclusive 
publishing right, so that no one could print her works without her prior 
consent.^ The Oeuvres contain five sections: her "Épître Dédicatoire," a 
polemical defense of women addressed to a young noblewoman of Lyon; her 
Débat de Folie et d'Amour, a comical treatise on love; three Elegies; 24 
Sonnets; and a series of anonymous poems written by various male authors 
honoring her as the new French Sappho. This mixture of styles and voices 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 1 (1999) /59 



60 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



is, I believe, at the very core of Labé's proto-feminist program, as it reveals 
a desire to subvert the literary tradition of the sixteenth century from within 
by establishing a dialogue with the major figures of this tradition. Her daring 
works raise issues of sexual difference and subjectivity and propose a 
powerful model of and for female authorship. In this brief study, I will show 
how the dialogic strategies employed in her Débat de Folie et d'Amour and 
the concept of subjectivity as double, manifested in particular in Sonnet 
XVIII, serve as a basis for the proto-feminist thoughts of her "Épître 
Dédicatoire" and prepare the way for many twentieth-century debates on 
gender issues. 

As a preface to Labé's complete works, the dedicatory Epistle encour- 
ages women to take advantage of the learning made available to them and 
to devote their time to studying and writing in order to acquire "gloire," 
"honneur," and "plaisir." She adds that men too will benefit from this: 



Et outre la reputacion que notre sexe en recevra, nous aurons valu au publiq, que les 
hommes mettront plus de peine et d'estude aus sciences vertueuses, de peur qu'ils 
n'ayent honte de voir précéder celles, desquelles ils ont prétendu estre tousjours 
supérieurs quasi en tout. (p. 42) 

In an indirect way, men are thus also being encouraged to excel. They are 
included in Labé's literary work as well, albeit anonymously, by means of 
the poems they dedicated to her. Throughout her Oeuvres, Labé insists on 
the importance of communication with the Other, both male and female. By 
the presence of these mixed voices in her works, she fosters dialogue and 
envisages a community of learning, where difference is celebrated not only 
between men and women, but also between women and within each woman, 
foretelling in a way the threefold program proposed by Rosi Braidotti.^ 
Labé' s texts invite women to recognize and enjoy the Other within, so that 
outward communication with other Selves can be achieved without any need 
for appropriation or any fear of difference. In her Elegies and her last Sonnet 
she stresses the difference between women by addressing different ladies 
who may not approve of and may even condemn her. She manifests the 
difference within woman in nearly all of her lyrical works and in the Débat, 
when she discusses the alienating power of love. 

The Débat de Folie et d'Amour illustrates the "Épître Dédicatoire" and 
celebrates difference. A brief summary of the Débat is in order. Amour and 
Folie both arrive late to a banquet given by Jupiter in Amour's honor. Folie, 
who does not wish to be last, pushes Amour aside. A squabble begins that 
ends with Folie plucking out Amour's eyes and then bandaging them to 



Catherine M. Millier /Celebrating Difference / 61 



reduce their repulsiveness. Amour's mother Venus hears his lament and calls 
to Jupiter for justice. A court is summoned, and Folie chooses Mercury to 
represent her, whereas Apollo represents Amour. As Robert Cottrell has 
shown in his Lacanian reading of the Débat, Amour is effectively portrayed 
as a male protagonist trapped in the imaginary, in a perfect symbiosis with 
the mother (Venus), until the castrating intervention of Folie propels him into 
the symbolic, where he lives in a nostalgic longing for perfect, re-created 
unity with his first love. (Cottrell reminds us that the fear of castration is 
associated with the "fear of blindness" in psychoanalytic dream imagery."^) 
Apollo's speech links Amour with the concepts of order, stasis, harmony, 
univocity, and conservatism, while Folie, according to Mercury, personifies 
movement, change, plurality, and chaos. 

Furthermore, as Julianne Jones Wright and François Rigolot have 
suggested in their feminist reading. Folie becomes an embodiment of the 
female voice of the "Épître Dédicatoire," as she asserts her authority and 
demands respect.^ At the outset of her encounter with Amour, she affirms 
her power and superiority. Amour, Venus, and Apollo criticize her not only 
for speaking arrogantly, but also for speaking at all, for usurping a forbidden 
"parole." Wright and Rigolot note four instances in which Folie interrupts 
Mercury because she cannot keep from speaking in her own name and must 
reclaim the voice refused her by the patriarchal system. Besides, she has 
carefully instructed Mercury how to speak. He is not to use any rhetorical 
device to persuade the gods, because she wants to privilege truth over a 
flowery style. By analogy, the Epistle stresses the need for women to place 
more importance on internal beauty and knowledge than on vain ornaments 
of the body. In opposition, rhetorical effects and outward appearance are 
Apollo's main emphases. Folie also prohibits Mercury from arousing sym- 
pathy by portraying her as a weak, pitiful, and powerless creature. Moreover, 
Folie makes a deliberate attempt to dissociate herself from the phallocentric 
representation of women exemplified by the behavior of Venus, who cries 
and confesses that she cannot speak because of her overwhelming grief. 

By contrast, Labé's persona in her lyrical works appears as a woman 
smitten by love but never victimized. If she grieves, it is by choice, to keep 
the memory of her love alive and relive it in her body. A close comparison 
between Labé's Elegies and the elegiac tradition from Ovid to Boccaccio 
and Nicolo da Correggio reveals the determination of the Labean persona to 
stay in control of her suffering and turn it into a song.^ Even Sappho herself 
— under whose sign Labé presents her poetic voice and with whom she was 



62 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



associated during her lifetime — confesses in Ovid's Heroides (Letter XV, 
"Sappho Phaoni") that she is no longer capable of singing and writing 
because she has been so weakened by love's power. As Deborah Lesko Baker 
has argued in her articles on Labé's poetry, the speaker in the Sonnets refuses 
to be compared to the mourning, "tortured" lover of the Neoplatonic tradition 
— more specifically that of Petrarch and Scève — and systematically 
deconstructs these masculine models, revealing a powerful "integrated self," 
who celebrates the possibility of a fulfilling love here and now and expresses 
confidence in her own artistic abilities^ 

I wish to stress that my application of the word "celebrate" to the Débat 
is motivated specifically by the character of Folie, who is said to be always 
amusing, always entertaining, singing, playing, acting out, dancing, and 
laughing. Building on Cottrell's image of the castrating Medusa,^ I would 
call her a "laughing Medusa," Hélène Cixous's symbol for an empowered 
woman who claims her own multiple voice, denounces the unique and 
unified male subject (embodied by Amour), and defies the logic of 
phallogocentric discourse (represented by the male gods).^ Opposing 
Apollo's speech in defense of Neoplatonic love. Folie — by means of and 
together with Mercury, the god of movement and eloquence — proves the 
absurdity of such love and contrasts it with an untamable fury, which is both 
a desire for a tangible, sensual amorous exchange and a desire to express 
love through artistic creation. Movement, change, laughter, desire, chaos are 
all attributes which frighten Amour and threaten to cut him off from his 
mother and his illusion of perfect oneness and harmony: he repeatedly states 
his fear of the danger Folie represents to him. 

The outcome of the Débat is one of Labé's most powerful claims for 
difference, because it refutes the traditional closure prescribed by the genre. 
By emphasizing Jupiter's incapability to pronounce a definite judgment, 
Labé disempowers the patriarchal voice, which was supposed to have final 
authority and reestablish order among gods and humans. In effect, she allows 
Folie to be Amour's guide forever, thereby stressing the helplessness of the 
male without the female and the danger of harmony and univocity without 
the elements of chaos and plurality. Even by means of the indeterminacy of 
the pronoun "lui" in "Et guidera Folie l'aveugle Amour, et le conduira par 
tout ou bon lui semblera" (p. 103) — "lui" designating both the feminine 
and masculine protagonists — the text privileges ambiguity and non-closure. 
This undecidability between male and female subjects, and between tradi- 
tional masculine and feminine elements, is frequent in Labé's poetry. For 



Catherine M. Millier /Celebrating Difference / 63 



instance, she repeatedly uses the metaphor of the sun for the woman and the 
moon for the man, or associates the figure of Orpheus with the female, ^^ or 
even plays on the indeterminacy of signs, as she does in her very well known 
first French Sonnet, "O beaus yeus bruns," where the attributes can designate 
either the lover or the beloved, or both. Moreover, Rigolot demonstrates how 
Labé plays with gender categories, especially with the word "amour," both 
masculine and feminine in the Renaissance, and systematically appropriates 
the gender that best allows her to illustrate her own concept of love and to 
affirm her identity as a female speaker and writer. ^^ 

The double nature of love at the end of the Débat — wherein Amour 
and Folie walk as one but remain two different beings — coupled with the 
feminine principle acting as both agent (it is she who has blinded Amour) 
and enabler (it is she who now guides him), becomes a powerful model for 
Labé' s subversive ideological project. That project involves debunking the 
system of male representation of women — exemplified by the Neoplatonist 
writings of her time — and offering a new figuration for the female voice 
through the image of openness and ambivalence. To use Laurie A. Finke's 
terminology, Labé is "creating noise" in refusing, like Folie, to be silenced 
by the patriarchal law.^^ 

In Sonnet XVIII, the poet's strategy of defining love as double allows 
her to question the subject-object paradigm within the traditional love 
discourse and to propose a new model of subjectivity for women. The first 
consequence of love as fury is a blurring of the categories of Self and Other 
characterized by a crisis of the subject, which Labé calls "estrangement," an 
estranging or alienating force causing the individual no longer to recognize 
him- or herself. ^^ Labé insists that the folly of love destabilizes the most 
securely anchored reason and creates havoc in what humans think to be fixed 
categories, like that of the unified Self. Suddenly chaos enters and the Self 
becomes a locus of the Other, the different, the unknown. This embodiment 
within the psyche of love-as-estrangement is a strategic way for Labé to 
demonstrate that love is an agent of change, an opportunity for the subject 
to experience otherness within the Self, or the Self as Other. It is a necessary 
step toward acquisition of subjectivity in the symbolic, because it unleashes 
a desire for both the Other and the same, allowing for true communication 
not only with the lover, but with all Others. As Folie states in the Débat, "Le 
plaisir que donne Amour, est caché et secret: celui de Folie se communique 
à tout le monde" (p. 89). In order to feel and express the pleasure of love, 
the subject has to experience the reality of otherness within. One has to 



64 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



become a double subject to be able to live out what Labé in Sonnet XVIII 
calls a "double vie." 

Sonnet XVIII is central to Labé's Oeuvres in part because it establishes 
a link with both the past and the present — that is, respectively, with the 
tradition of Latin texts on the basium and with the poem "De Aloysae 
Labaeae Osculis" included among the texts written in her honor. ^"^ As Rigolot 
has argued, the play on the words "basia," "labea," "labaeae," "osculis" in 
the contemporary Latin poem associates her name Labé with the lips who 
kiss and the lips who sing poetry. ^^ In Sonnet XVIII, Labé employs the image 
of kissing to inscribe herself in the text — as lover and poet — and in the 
literary tradition, as she responds to the male writers while asserting her 
feminine voice. At the same time, this sonnet is crucial to Labé's feminist 
program because it stresses her departure from the Neoplatonic concept of 
love, with its emphasis on the myth of the androgyne as a symbol of perfect 
spiritual unity between lovers. Throughout this poem, Labé deconstructs that 
myth and appropriates a new definition of doubleness, as she engages in 
dialogue with the works of Ovid, Ficino, Ebreo,^^ and Petrarch, as well as 
with her highly acclaimed fellow Lyonnais Maurice Scève. Ultimately, by 
recalling the "Épître Dédicatoire" and the Débat, this poem proposes a new 
concept of Self and a form oï art poétique which provides a model for women 
as readers of her works and as writers of their own: 

Raise m'encor, rebaise moy et baise: 
Donne m'en un de tes plus savoureus, 
Donne m'en un de tes plus amoureus: 
Je t'en rendray quatre plus chaus que braise. 

Las, te pleins tu? ça que ce mal j'apaise, 
En t'en donnant dix autres doucereus. 
Ainsi meslans nos baisers tant heureus 
Jouissons nous l'un de l'autre à notre aise. 

Lors double vie à chacun en suivra. 
Chacun en soy et son ami vivra. 
Permets m' Amour penser quelque folie: 

Tousjours suis mal, vivant discrettement, 
Et ne me puis donner contentement. 
Si hors de moy ne fay quelque saillie. 



Catherine M. Millier / Celebrating Difference / 65 



By starting the poem in médias res}^ Labé assigns a status of non-open- 
ing and non-closure, a denial of origin and completion, not only to the act of 
kissing, but to the poem and to the gesture of writing itself. In fact, the very 
presence of "encor" at the outset of the incipit calls into existence a prior 
scene or ''avant-texte'' while the addition of "baise" — without any object 
or any "re" after "rebaise moy" — suggests a new beginning where one 
would expect a linear and logical progression. Furthermore, the triple reit- 
eration of "baise," coupled with the emphasis on "re" provoked by the 
alliteration and the forced, slowed-down pronunciation of "encor, rebaise," 
establishes repetition between non-opening and non-closure as a key element 
of both amorous and poetic exchange. Repetition overflows the first line and 
is made even more insistent by means of the almost identical second and 
third lines, the rich rhyme ("savoureus"/"amoureus"), and the double recall- 
ing of "m'en" from "m' encor." In line 4, the two "r"s of "rendray" create 
one more echo of the strong "r" in "encor, rebaise," ascribing to the act of 
reciprocation an unceasing repetition. Moreover, the number "quatre," as a 
multiple of the two kisses given in the previous two lines, frames the scene 
with a sense of endlessness and excess undermining the very numerology it 
employs. The use of the future may be regarded here as an ironic gesture to 
oppose the unreachable, spiritual reality of Neoplatonic love with an 
immediate, tangible, and reciprocal passion. As Baker has shown, the evo- 
cation of fire in this line to accentuate the intensity of pleasure represents 
yet another element of departure from the Petrarchan lyric, where torturous 
burning is always a result of the beloved's cruel silence or absence. The 
binary structuring of line 5, with the repetition of "Las" and "ça," introduces 
a playful dialogue between lovers, as it incorporates the voice of the beloved 
within the text through a rewording of his lament. Here again Baker has 
pointed out the irony of the Petrarchan lament's becoming a plea for more 
kisses and the use of "apaiser" for sexual fulfillment, whereas in Petrarch it 
denotes the final rest of the lover after death !^^ Labé renders dialogue with the 
beloved possible in order to emphasize the mutually fulfilling nature of their 
exchange and her desire as a poet to inscribe the voice of the Other in her text. 

Labé regularly incorporates otherness in her poetry to stress the need 
for literature to become a place not of univocity but of communication. As 
Mercury states, Folie is "tousjours ouverte" (p. 82), and so is Labé's textual 
economy. Openness to the voice of the Other allows for reciprocity. This is 
underlined in the second quatrain by a series of formal devices: the use of 
"donnant" to echo the imperatives "donne" from the beginning of the poem; 



66 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



the participle "meslans," which like "donnant" connotes continuity as well 
as togetherness; the reiteration of "nos," "nous" and "notre" — rarely used 
in either Petrarch or Scève; and finally the form "l'un de l'autre." The 
repeating of "baisers" adds not only to the number of kisses and to the endless 
pleasure, but also to the reciprocal nature of that pleasure. In addition, the 
hyperbolic words "tant heureus" place this exchange under the sign of 
happiness and excess, an immeasurable and uncontainable love. In Labé's 
text, this mad love resists counting, the kisses being freely given and 
multiplied as quickly as one in line 2 becomes ten in line 6!*^ The first two 
quatrains depict the couple under the auspices of total well-being and 
reciprocity, not giving opposition, dissatisfaction, or power-play a chance. 

Through the conjunction "Lors," the "double vie" in line 9 is shown to 
be a result of the mutual jouissance described in the two quatrains. The first 
tercet introduces the speaker's philosophical view on the issue of subject- 
object relation through love. For Labé's contemporaries, the adjective "dou- 
ble" almost inevitably alluded to the myth of the androgyne. This allusion 
was even more immediate for the reader of the Labean Oeuvres, since in the 
Débat (p. 70), Apollo had just reminded his divine audience of the story of 
those Urmenschen, who, according to Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium, 
were created both male and female as spheres with two faces, four arms, and 
four legs, and then divided in two by the gods as a punishment, thus 
provoking a longing for the opposite sex — the other-as-same — that could 
be satisfied only by a reuniting love. The myth of the androgyne enjoyed 
great popularity in the Renaissance, as Judeo-Christian elements merged 
with Plato's comic tale to create a new spiritual ideal of complete oneness 
and indistinction between perfect lovers. 

Labé evokes this myth but situates double life in the realm of the body, 
which for her is the true source of jouissance, physical and spiritual. She 
purposefully links the concept of bisexuality with Folie ("Permets m' Amour 
penser quelque folie"), whom, as we have seen, she associates with differ- 
ence and chaos. Labé's double life thus takes on a double meaning: through 
the connection with the quatrains, the reality of a fulfilling love exchange 
becomes in the tercets a celebration of difference justified by the weaving 
of madness in the text. This new definition of love is ambiguously both love 
as a concept and love as a reality. Peggy Kamuf 's translations call attention 
to the threefold meaning of "Permets m' Amour": "Permit me. Love"; 
"Permit my love"; "Permit me, ... my love".^^ In Labé's Oeuvres, the 
signifier Amour is consistently shifting between the lover, the beloved, and 



Catherine M. Muller /Celebrating Difference / 67 



the fury — the source of inspiration. Through the juxtaposition of 
"m' Amour" and "penser," this new definition of love becomes a place where 
thinking can emerge, philosophical thought that includes Folie as a catalyst 
of difference. In this love equation there is no chance for two to become one. 
Rather, as in the "échange amoureux" described by Luce Irigaray, One plus 
One never equals One or Two, but Three as a symbol of excess and creation.^^ 
Similarly, Labé creates an image for a relationship where Self and Other are 
together in a mutual exchange but never disappear in a oneness that would 
absorb or destroy otherness. Each lover remains both Self and Other 
("chacun en soy et son ami vivra") because each has learned to be another 
to his/her own Self through the experience of estrangement described above. 
The economy of desire in this poem is not a dream of unity, but a celebration 
of doubleness as a symbol of difference and multiplicity. 

The real madness of this thinking is made explicit in the last tercet where 
Labé' s philosophy transcends the couple and becomes a new standpoint on 
the possibility of communication with others through love and writing. The 
expression "faire saillie" is multifaceted. On the one hand, as Rigolot 
reminds us, it designates both the copulation of animals and a strategic 
military attack to force an assailant to withdraw.^^ j^ Labé' s first Elegy, the 
term "saillir" refers to the power coming out of the female protagonist's eyes 
to conquer the beloved. The idea of conquest through the eyes appears also 
in Sonnets VI and XXIII, where once more the myth of the passive and weak 
Neoplatonic lover is deconstructed by the poet and replaced by a powerful 
persona, who is the agent, not the victim, in the innamoramento scene which 
Mercury mocks in the Débat. Moreover, by associating the light of the eyes 
with the light of the sun, the symbol of inspiration in other sonnets, the poet 
establishes a connection between the "saillie" as power of love and the 
"saillie" as poetic expression. 

Curiously, Montaigne too links the word with artistic creation and with 
a living outside of self: "Les saillies poétiques, qui emportent leur autheur 
et le ravissent hors de soy, pourquoy ne les attribuerons nous à son 
bonheur?"23 This literary meaning of "saillie," as well as its connection with 
the idea of rapture and happiness, establishes a correspondence between the 
"Épître Dédicatoire" and Sonnet XVIII. In the Epistle, the word "contente- 
ment" designates the pleasure of reading and writing: 

S'il y ha quelque chose recommandable après la gloire et l'honneur, le plaisir que 
Vestude des lettres ha acoutumé donner nous y doit chacune inciter: qui est autre que les 
autres recreations: desquelles quand on en ha pris tant que Ion veut, on ne se peut vanter 



68 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



d'autre chose, que d'avoir passé le tems. Mais celle de Vestude laisse un contentement 
de soy, qui nous demeure plus longuement. Car le passé nous resjouit, et sert plus que 
le present: mais les plaisirs des sentimens se perdent incontinent, et ne reviennent jamais. 
... Mais quand il a vient que mettons par escrit nos concepcions ... si est ce que long 
tems après, reprenans nos escrits, nous revenons au mesme point, et à la mesme 
disposicion ou nous estions. Lors nous redouble notre aise: car nous retrouvons \q plaisir 
passé qu'avons ù ou en la matière dont escrivions, ou en l'intelligence des sciences ou 
lors estions adonnez. Et outre ce, le jugement que font nos fécondes concepcions des 
premieres, nous rend un singulier contentement, (pp. 42-43, emphasis mine) 

The verb "redouble" is also associated v/ïih jouissance and followed by the 
same "notre aise" as in Sonnet XVIII. 

I suggest that Labé alludes to this passage of the Epistle in her Sonnet 
to link the concepts of love and writing through that of pleasure. In line 13 
of the poem, contentment goes beyond the idea of the couple by a stylistic 
means whereby "donner" — which previously appeared exclusively in the 
context of a love gift — now appears in conjunction with the reflexive "me" 
to focus on the fulfillment of the independent subject. The pronoun "tu" has 
completely disappeared in the last three verses. What is at stake now is her 
identity as woman and as poet. If she cannot come outside of herself as Self, 
she cannot find the contentment she promises in her Epistle.^"^ With her body 
(the quatrains) and her thinking (the tercets), she needs to embrace the Other 
within — first, to come out of the Self dynamically and powerfully (as "faire 
saillie" suggests), then to be able to relate to others, allowing their Selves to 
live a "double vie" of their own. If she does not express herself, she risks 
falling not only into a "mal-aise," as is implied by the adverb "mal," but, 
more dramatically, into a loss of being altogether, as Kamuf reads it — a 
"mal-être" further emphasized by the quantifier "tousjours," in striking 
contrast to the "tant heureus" of line 7. The adverb "discrettement" is another 
of Labé's rich terms, as it can assume three meanings in the sixteenth century: 
"separately," "prudently," and "reasonably" — all opposed to the connota- 
tions of "folie." If the speaker does not take on the attributes of folly and 
come out of herself but rather stays separate, prudent, and reasonable, she 
loses her "aise" and "contentement" and becomes a non-being, a non-sub- 
ject.^^ The acquisition of subjectivity for the female persona of this text is 
thus shown to be the coming out from the realm of oneness, from the 
imaginary symbolized by the androgynous relationship between Amour and 
his mother Venus. By thinking the mad thought of difference, the feminine 
Self can claim access to the symbolic and enter the realm of a "saillie 
poétique." 



Catherine M. Millier /Celebrating Difference / 69 



Kamuf was the first to establish a parallel between this sixteenth-cen- 
tury proto-feminist and our postmodern feminist theories when she cited 
Labé's "double vie" as a model for dialogue between men and women in 
feminism.^^ I would like to propose, in conclusion, that Labé's contention 
with the Neoplatonic view of the androgyne, i.e., her replacing of oneness 
with doubleness, offers striking analogies with some post-structuralist 
debates on sexual difference, and, more specifically, with contemporary 
appropriations of the androgyne as a model for the representation of female 
subjectivity. The myth of the androgyne became popular in feminist theory 
in the 1970s as a reaction to radical feminism, which emphasized a reversal 
of patriarchal hierarchies. Eager to dismantle dualistic oppositions, critics 
such as Carolyn Heilbrun used the androgyne as a symbol of harmony, as a 
locus of potential dialogue between the sexes, wherein oppositions would 
be blurred and thus overcome.^'' Their opponents, like Cynthia Secor^^ and 
Daniel Harris,^^ although stressing the necessity to eradicate dualistic mod- 
els of representation, viewed the androgyne — a "static image of perfection, 
in etemity"^^ — as a threat to feminist theory because it perpetuated the 
binary opposition masculine/feminine and continued to define women in rela- 
tion to men, thereby preventing autonomous figurations of female subjectivity. 

Today, some postmodern feminists have suggested new models to 
translate their desire for a creative dialogue between gender categories while 
accounting for differences. Finke's notion of dialogic feminism and com- 
plexity, Katherine Hay les 's concept of chaos,^^ and Braidotti's image of 
nomadism are all contemporary analogies to Labé's paradigm of double life, 
inasmuch as they attempt to construct the female subject while "displacing 
boundaries."^2 Finally, I would like to recall Cixous, who, in "Le rire de la 
Méduse," translates most eloquently the necessity to travel from a notion of 
"self effacing, merger-type bisexuality," which she calls "bisexualité neu- 
tre," to what she designates as "l'autre bisexualité" or "l'Amour Autre," 
which represents a "nonexclusion either of the difference or of one sex . . . , 
a multiplication of the effects of the inscription of desire over all parts of my 
body and the other body."^^ Labé's concept of jouissance y like that of Cixous, 
begins as an inscription of desire in the body ("Baise m'encor, rebaise moy 
et baise") and is reduplicated in the body of the text, when amorous lips 
offering endless kisses are doubled by Labean lips generating open-ended 
songs for the double pleasure of bringing contentment to herself and redou- 
bling our own "plaisir du texte. "^"^ 

Université de Lausanne 



70 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Notes 

1 . Natalie Zemon Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modem France: Eight Essays (Stanford: 
Stanford University Press, 1975). 

2. Louise Labé, Oeuvres complètes: Sonnets, Elégies, Débat de Folie et d'Amour Poésies, éd. 
François Rigolot (Paris: Flammarion, 1986). AU quotations are from this edition and are 
incorporated parenthetically in the text. 

3. Rosi Braidotti, Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary 
Feminist Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 158-67. Braidotti 
strives to "asser[t] the positivity of sexual difference" and define woman as "other-than a 
nonman" (p. 161). To achieve this definition, she says, it is necessary to consider the 
following three levels of sexual difference: 1) "difference between men and women"; 
"difference among women"; and 3) "differences within each woman." 

4. Robert D. Cottrell, "The Problematics of Opposition in Louise Labé's Débat de folie et 
d'amour" French Forum, 12 (1987), p. 37. 

5. Julianne Jones Wright and François Rigolot, "Les Irruptions de Folie: fonction idéologique 
àw porte-parole dans les Oeuvres de Louise Labé," L'Esprit créateur, 30.4 (1990), p. 72. 

6. For the two Itahan authors, see Giovanni Boccaccio, The Elegy of Lady Fiammetta, trans. 
M. Causa- Steindler and T. Mauch (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1 990), and Nicolô 
da Correggio, Rime, ed. Antonia Tissoni Benvenuti, Scrittori dTtalia 244 (Ban: Laterza, 
1969). 

7. Deborah Lesko Baker, "Re-reading the folie: Louise Labé's Sonnet XVIII and the Renais- 
sance Love Heritage," Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme, 1 7. 1 ( 1993), 
p. 11. See also her article, "Louise Labé's Conditional Imperatives: Subversion and 
Transcendence of the Petrarchan Tradition," The Sixteenth Century Journal, 21 (1990), pp. 
523-41. 

8. Cottrell, p. 38. 

9. Hélène Cixous, "Le Rire de la Méduse," L'Arc, 61 (1975), pp. 39-54. For an English 
translation, see "The Laugh of the Medusa," trans. Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen, in The 
Signs Reader: Women, Gender, and Scholarship, ed. Elizabeth Abel and Emily K. Abel 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), pp. 279-97. 

10. Of course, she is not the first poet to do so; medieval writers before her had stressed the 
female side of Orpheus or portrayed heroines as Orphic figures. 

H. François Rigolot, "Gender vs. Sex Difference in Louise Labé's Grammar of Love," in 
Rewriting the Renaissance: The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modem Europe, 
ed. Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan, and Nancy J. Vickers (Chicago and London: 
University of Chicago Press, 1986), pp. 287-98, esp. p. 297. 

12. Laurie A. Finke, Feminist Theory, Women's Writing (Ithaca, NY: Comell University Press, 
1992), p. 33. 

13. "Ainsi Amour de toy t'a estrangee, /Qu'on te diroit en une autre changée" (p. 109). Labé 
refers also to an "estrange et forte passion" (p. 135) and employs the terms "aliéné" (p. 98), 
as well as multiple expressions denoting metamorphoses and transformation due to the 
overwhelming power of love (pp. 52, 98-100, 117). 



Catherine M. Millier /Celebrating Difference / 71 



14. Labé, Oeuvres, pp. 142-45. 

15. François Rigolot, "Signature et signification: Les baisers de Louise Labé," Romanic 
/?m>H',75.1(1984),p. 15. 

16. See, in particular, Léon Hébreu, Dialogues d'Amour, trans. Pontus de TVard (Lyon, 1551). 

17. Rigolot, "Signature et signification," p. 17. 

18. Baker, p. 8. 

19. et Peggy Kamuf, "A Double Life (Femmeninism II)," in Men in Feminism, éd. Alice 
Jardine and Paul Smith (New York and London: Methuen, 1987), p. 94. 

20. Ibid., p. 93. 

21 . Luce Irigaray, Ce Sexe qui n'en est pas un (Paris: Minuit, 1977). See also Kamuf, pp. 95-96. 

22. Rigolot, "Signature et signification," p. 19. 

23. Montaigne, Essais, éd. V.-L. Saulnier (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1965), 1, 24, 
174; quoted also in Baker, "Re-reading," p. 14. 

24. C/ Kamuf, p. 95. 

25. Ibid., p. 95. 

26. Ibid., p. 96. 

27. Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Toward a Recognition of Androgyny (New York: Knopf, 1973). 

28. Cynthia Secor, "Androgyny: An Early Reappraisal," Women's Studies, 2 (1974), pp. 
161-70. 

29. Daniel A. Harris, "Androgyny: The Sexist Myth in Disguise," Women's Studies, 2 (1974), 
pp. 171-84. 

30. Secor, p. 164. 

31. Katherine Hayles, Chaos Bound: Orderly Disorder in Contemporary Literature and 
Science (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990). 

32. Elizabeth Weed, quoted in Kamuf, p. 96. 

33. Cixous, "Laugh of the Medusa," p. 288; "Le Rire de la Méduse," p. 46. 

34. Roland Barthes, Le Plaisir du texte (Paris: Seuil, 1973). 



Reviews 
Comptes rendus 



Marie le Jars de Goumay, Les Advis, ou, les Presens de la Demoiselle de 
Goumay 1641, vol. I. Éd. Jean-Philippe Beaulieu et Hannah Foumier, avec la 
collaboration de Delbert Russell. Introduction par Marie-Thérèse Noiset. 
Amsterdam/Atlanta, Georgia, Rodopi, 1997. Pp. 261. 

Marie de Goumay, Le Promenoir de Monsieur de Montaigne. Texte de 1641, 
avec les variantes des éditions de 1594, 1595, 1598, 1599, 1607, 1623, 1626, 
1627, 1634. Ed. Jean-Claude Amould. Etudes Montaignistes XXVI. Paris, 
Champion, 1996. Pp. 218. 

Ces deux livres sont les plus récents d'une série de rééditions d'oeuvres de Gournay, 
qui ont paru au cours des quinze dernières années (Beaulieu/Fournier [1997], 
Arnould [1996], Bertelà [1995], Venesoen [1993], Dezon-Jones [1988], Cholakian 
[1985]; aussi bien que plusieurs rééditions de la "Préface aux Essais" parues dans 
la revue américaine Montaigne Studies). 

Jean-Philippe Beaulieu et Hannah Fournier sont déjà bien connus parmi les 
Goumayens pour leurs publications sur cette écrivaine. Ici, ils ont entrepris la tâche 
intimidante d'éditer toute l'oeuvre de Gournay (dans la version de 1641), tandis 
que les éditions mentionnées ci-dessus n'en ont présenté que de courtes sélections 
(Le Proumenoir, la poésie, les essais féministes et autobiographiques, et les 
Préfaces). Beaulieu et Fournier projettent trois volumes, dont celui-ci est le 
premier. Le projet a été subventionné par le Conseil de recherches en sciences 
humaines du Canada. Beaulieu et Fournier travaillent avec l'aide d'une équipe (le 
groupe MARGOT), à Waterloo, en Ontario. 

Le premier volume comprend une longue introduction, puis l'édition de plus 
ou moins un tiers du texte des Advis de 1641, et un glossaire de quelques mots de 
Gournay qui pourraient poser des difficultés pour le lecteur moderne. L'Introduc- 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 1 (1999) /73 



74 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



tion, écrite par Marie-Thérèse Noiset, présente les faits principaux de la vie et de 
l'oeuvre de Gournay et une vue d'ensemble du contenu des Advis. Cette introduc- 
tion passe en revue les évaluations positives et négatives de l'oeuvre de Gournay 
depuis le dix-septième siècle. Il est clair que le groupe MARGOT a pris une 
position féministe et qu'il essaie de réhabiliter Gournay, écrivaine sous-estimée 
jusqu'ici. 

Les deux thèmes prédominants de l'Introduction sont les suivants: les ré- 
formes de la langue au début du dix-septième siècle, auxquelles Gournay s'opposa, 
et ses considérations sur la condition des femmes. Un autre leitmotiv de Gournay 
est son attachement profond à Montaigne, un thème que l'on trouve dans les 
Préfaces, et aussi dans les chapitres sur l'éducation, la langue, les moeurs, etc. 
Quelques chapitres des Advis sont des pièces de circonstance écrites pour les 
membres de la famille royale (surtout Henri IV et Marie de Médicis). Ces chapitres 
nous rappellent la situation de dépendance qui fut celle de Gournay pendant sa vie 
comme femme de lettres, à une époque où l'on ne reconnaissait pas cette profession 
comme étant convenable pour les femmes. 

Plusieurs chapitres traitent de sujets moraux, mais à la différence des Essais 
de Montaigne (qui explorent les questions de moeurs d'une manière tolérante et 
flexible), Gournay a plutôt tendance à condamner les moeurs qu'elle voit autour 
d'elle: la flatterie, la médisance, la calomnie, la moquerie, les duels, les abus de 
pouvoir par les courtisans, la vengeance, l'hypocrisie religieuse, etc. Comme chez 
Montaigne, Gournay remplit son texte d' exempta et de citations de l'Antiquité, 
que les éditeurs ont identifiés pour la plupart. 

On nous explique dans l'Introduction qu'à la différence des éditions anté- 
rieures de l'oeuvre de Gournay, celle-ci n'essaie pas de présenter et de comparer 
les différentes versions du texte. La justification pour le choix du texte de 1641 
est le sentiment exprimé par les éditeurs que le contenu de l'oeuvre de Gournay 
ne change pas autant que ne le fait son expression. 

Un échantillon de quelques essais peut donner au lecteur non averti une idée 
de l'étendue de ce volume. Le "Discours sur ce livre — A Sophrosine" est essentiel 
pour celui qui entame l'étude de l'oeuvre de Gournay. Gournay écrivit cette introduc- 
tion pour les oeuvres complètes (en 1634 — revue en 1641). Le "Discours" nous 
montre l'attitude ambivalente de Gournay envers sa propre oeuvre: ". . . que l'oeil, 
quoy qu'il voye toutes choses, est impuissant à se faire voir soy-mesme" (p. 49). 
Elle y offre au lecteur un guide du livre, et elle lui propose plusieurs défis, en lui 
demandant de juger de la qualité de son oeuvre et surtout de son travail comme 
écrivaine. Elle met aussi l'accent sur "l'originalité" de la plupart des discours dans 
le volume. 

Le premier traité sur l'éducation ("De l'éducation des enfans de France") est 
une exception à cette règle, car il emprunte largement aux Anciens, et aussi aux 
idées du maître, Montaigne. Gournay insiste sur l'importance du choix d'un bon 
précepteur et sur le fait qu'une bonne éducation aidera le jeune prince à ne pas se 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 75 



laisser tromper par les flatteurs. Elle fait la distinction dans ce chapitre entre 
"apprendre leur Livre" et "estre le Livre mesme" (p. 77), une distinction qui nous 
rappelle les idées de Montaigne sur l'éducation. 

Des huit essais sur la langue (dans les oeuvres complètes), il n'y en a qu'un 
dans ce premier volume: "Du langage françois." Goumay aborde ici un sujet sur 
lequel elle reviendra: la supériorité de la langue française du seizième siècle, et 
son appauvrissement au dix-septième, surtout sous l'influence des Parisiens et des 
courtisans. Les nouveaux experts de la langue, selon Gournay, sont des "Docteurs 
en negative" (p. 127). 

Un autre essai digne de mention est "Que par nécessité les grands esprits & 
les gens de bien cherchent leurs semblables" (p. 233). Il traite de l'amitié, comme 
le chapitre de Montaigne à ce sujet (I, 28). Mais l'essai de Gournay contient aussi 
une orientation autobiographique, ce qui est fréquent chez la fille d'alliance de 
Montaigne. Une phrase recyclée de la "Préface de 1595" nous donne un aperçu du 
vrai sujet de ce traité: "Estre seul, ou parmy des ignorans & foibles esprits, c'est 
aucunement n'estre pas: car l'estre se réfère à l'agir" (p. 237). 

Il n'y a pas de place ici pour résumer les autres chapitres de ce volume. La 
contribution majeure de cette édition est qu'elle rend accessible pour la première 
fois des écrits de Gournay que l'on n'a pu trouver jusqu'ici que dans les bibliothè- 
ques de livres rares, ou sur microfilm. Le groupe MARGOT a rendu un service 
inestimable aux chercheurs, et nous attendons avec plaisir les deuxième et troi- 
sième volumes de la série. 

Une autre réédition récente d'une oeuvre de Gournay est celle du Promenoir 
de Monsieur de Montaigne (1641), par Jean-Claude Arnould. Les buts de cette 
édition sont assez différents de ceux de Beaulieu et de Fournier. Arnould a pris un 
texte qui avait déjà été (deux fois) réédité (Venesoen — 1626 [1993], et Cholakian 
— 1 594 [1985]), mais il soumet ce texte à un examen plus minutieux que celui des 
deux éditeurs précédents. Ce faisant, il crée une édition sans pareille, qui montre 
toutes les variantes de ce roman du début de la carrière de Gournay (1594), et il 
finit par retrouver presque toutes les références et citations du texte. Arnould a 
déjà édité les actes d'un colloque de 1995 sur "Gournay et l'édition de 1595" 
(Champion, 1996) et il a préparé précédemment une édition du livre qui incita 
Gournay à écrire son Proumenoir, les Discours des Champs faëz de Claude 
Taillemont(1553 [Droz, 1991]). 

L'Introduction d' Arnould est erudite, originale et pénétrante. Celui-ci réfute, 
par exemple, l'idée généralement acceptée que Gournay écrivit ce livre du vivant 
de Montaigne, pour suggérer qu'elle le rédigea en fait pendant sa période de deuil, 
après la mort de l'essayiste. Arnould fait l'observation originale que le Proumenoir 
se place plus ou moins au centre des Advis, entre les traités polémiques (t. I), et 
les oeuvres littéraires et poétiques (t. II). Il décrit le Proumenoir comme le début 
de la carrière de Gournay, sous l'égide de Montaigne, mais dans une période de 
transition vers la création personnelle. 



76 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Arnould étudie de près l'évolution du texte à travers les rééditions succes- 
sives. Il précise les trois principes de cette évolution: une mise à jour idéologique 
et morale, une mise à jour lexicale et syntaxique et une logique esthétique. 
"L'histoire piteuse" de Taillemont est transformée en "l'histoire tragique" de 
Goumay, ce qui crée un genre plus à la mode au début du dix-septième siècle. 

Arnould reproduit tous les paratextes divers du Proumenoir, aussi bien que 
toutes ses variantes. Les notes sont très étendues — elles occupent souvent plus 
de place que le texte lui-même. Il y a deux séries de notes: 1, 2, 3 — qui donnent 
les changements d'orthographe, et les variantes d'année en année; tandis que A, 
B, C suivent la trace des références et donnent quelquefois l'interprétation de 
passages difficiles (ce que Beaulieu et Fournier ne font pas). L'édition d' Arnould 
est vraiment une édition critique, et elle représente un état présent de tout ce que 
l'on sait actuellement au sujet du Proumenoir. 

En conclusion, ces deux éditions fournissent des suppléments importants au 
corpus croissant d'oeuvres de Gournay accessibles au lecteur moderne. Ces 
éditions ajoutent aussi à l'ensemble des connaissances et des interprétations de 
cette oeuvre fascinante. 

CATHLEEN M. BAUSCHATZ, University of Maine 



Mary B. McKinley. Les Terrains vagues des Essais. Itinéraires et intertextes. 
Paris, Champion, 1996. Pp. 189. 

Après son ouvrage fort remarqué sur l'utilisation stratégique des textes des Anciens 
dans les Essais (Words in a Corner: Studies in Montaigne 's Latin Quotations, 1981), 
Mary McKinley, Prix Montaigne en 1993, s'attaque ici à la présence des oeuvres 
modernes, aux "terrains vagues" où Montaigne construira l'espace unique de son 
ouvrage. Le livre réunit, rayonnant d'une courte Introduction et la consolidant, sept 
communications déjà publiées ailleurs, après un premier chapitre inédit. (Quelques 
redites d'un chapitre à un autre [p.ex., l'analyse du vocable "vague," pp. 42-43 et 
pp. 146-47], malheureusement fréquentes dans ce genre de recueil, assurent certai- 
nement l'unité du propos, mais elle l'est déjà par l'Introduction.) La perspective, 
bien que centrée sur le littéraire, le déborde largement pour envisager les ramifica- 
tions épistémologiques chez l' auteur-apprenant Montaigne. 

D'emblée, au premier chapitre, Mary McKinley révèle par démonstration une 
(presque) constante des résultats de sa recherche: la prédominance de Vimitatio 
sur la mimesis, en faisant remarquer les ressemblances entre une description 
alpestre du Journal de Voyage et les conventions observées par les peintres de tels 
paysages. Elle insiste, ici comme dans les chapitres subséquents, à la fois sur la 
structuration (la dispositio), et le choix des composantes. McKinley en tire la 
conclusion que le passage où le groupe de Montaigne découvre les gorges de l'Inn 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 77 



doit moins à la description d'un lieu précis — donc à la mimesis, qu'à la remise 
en oeuvre de procédés artistiques contemporains propres aux représentations de 
ce genre — à Vimitatio. 

Le deuxième chapitre nous initie bien à la structure des suivants. Mary 
McKinley y étudie à la fois des passages des Essais, mais aussi la lettre de 
Montaigne à son père sur la mort de La Boétie et quelques vers des Poemata de 
celui-ci, publiés par les soins de Montaigne. Elle en déduit que l'écriture des Essais 
— surtout les passages sur le Nouveau Monde — est redevable à La Boétie et aux 
Anciens que celui-ci imitait, mais souligne la complémentarité de la mimesis et de 
Vimitatio dans la rhétorique montaignienne de l'amitié. 

S' appuyant sur deux lectures d'enfance de Montaigne: les Métamorphoses 
d'Ovide et les Vies des hommes illustres de Plutarque, le chapitre suivant compare 
Montaigne d'abord à un Thésée qui, dans le labyrinthe de l'inconnu, s'escrime à 
trouver la vérité, mais par la suite — lorsque Montaigne l'auteur écrit sur son 
oeuvre — , à Dédale. Mary McKinley voit dans la syntaxe même de certaines 
phrases l'imitation d'un labyrinthe. 

Les deux prochains chapitres s'intéressent à 1' "Apologie de Raimond Se- 
bond," d'abord dans la perspective de la traduction préparatoire à l'écriture, puis 
sous le patronage de saint Augustin qui aurait inspiré non seulement certaines 
matières de l'essai, mais aussi sa disposition. 

Mary McKinley aborde l'essai "De la vanité" au sixième chapitre, ainsi qu'au 
suivant. Tantôt vécu, tantôt lecture, tantôt écriture — même ludique (p. 118 et 
suiv.), le voyage structurant l'essai — Montaigne, Paris, Rome . . . Athènes (?) — 
alignerait les loci et en particulier de VEcclésiaste. Condamnable mais jugée 
subjectivement — souligne-t-elle — , la vanité, comme le voyage, culmine dans 
un sujet traditionnel de moquerie: Montaigne exprime son plaisir à recevoir une 
bulle de bourgeoisie romaine. L'auteur fait remarquer que le contexte et l'évocation 
de la bulle créent, en fait, "un grand jeu de mots" (p. 118) introduisant 1) un autre lieu 
de la vanité: la bulle d'eau et son caractère éphémère, mais aussi 2) un "honunage 
allusif ' (p. 120) à l'adage Homo bulla et, partant, à d'autres oeuvres d'Érasme (le 
Cicéronien et V Eloge de la folie). Conclusion: la vanité du langage acceptée lui permet, 
comme dans 1' "Apologie," de mieux jouir et du langage et de son humanité. 

Dans son septième chapitre, Mary McKinley va plus avant dans son étude 
des parallèles (invention et disposition) avec le Cicéronien. L'itinéraire (disposi- 
tio) relevé comporte, d'abord, l'autocritique de l'écrivain; suivie de l'allégorie 
agraire représentant la préparation de l'esprit, et à la fin, les bulles de bourgeoisie. 
Plus généralement, Vimitatio éclectique prônée par Érasme, à rencontre des 
cicéroniens est manifeste tant dans "De la vanité" que dans l'ensemble des Essais. 
Érasme, absent, serait "montré du doigt" (p. 144) par l'imitation. 

L'ultime chapitre est consacré à une analyse des errances du style et de la 
pensée. Par le biais d'un jeu de mot, Mary McKinley relie le vagabondage aux 
"terrains vagues" (étymologiquement) et à 1' "abondance." Le style pléthorique de 



78 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Montaigne chercherait à combler un manque: 1) amorce du projet des Essais, 
(surtout) l'ami perdu; 2) pendant l'écriture, la connaissance de soi. Rétif au 
cloisonnement, Montaigne vagabonde/écrit en dépit des genres et unités érigés de 
nouveau par les néo-aristotéliciens. Son style coupé, sautillant comme celui de 
l'Arioste (p. 159), accompagne une recherche mélancolique de son identité qui 
évoquerait celle du chevalier de la Mancha. 

Cet ensemble d'explications de textes a surtout le mérite de signaler que le 
mode d'intervention de "simples" modernes dans l'écriture des Essais est, para- 
doxalement, le même que celui des Autorités anciennes: Vimitaîio, et que la quête 
identitaire de l'auteur Montaigne passe par des terres occupées tantôt par les uns, 
tantôt par les autres. Malgré la puissance des analogies, le nombre des détails 
semblables ainsi que les correspondances de disposition, on peut, certes, question- 
ner la nécessaire pertinence d'une ou deux des etiologies proposées (le paysage de 
Bruegel, par exemple). Après le "diligent lecteur" de Montaigne, souvent sollicité 
dans ce livre, un autre surgit alors des Essais: "J'ay leu en Tite-Live cent choses 
que tel n'y a pas leu. Plutarque en y a leu cent, outre ce que j'y ai sceu lire, et, à 
r adventure, outre ce que l'autheur y avoit mis" (I, 26, 156c). Ce qui ne diminue 
en rien l'admiration de Montaigne pour Plutarque. 

Enfin, cet excellent ouvrage de recherche rend explicite, aussi, le processus 
par lequel Mary McKinley prépare le texte (son regard, son découpage), ainsi que 
les étapes d'une analyse de la présence des modernes, de sorte qu'il ouvre et balise 
la voie pour tout explorateur éventuel de ces "terrains vagues." 

MICHEL LIDDLE, Université d'Ottawa 



Leah S. Marcus. Unediting the Renaissance: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Milton, 
London and New York: Routledge, 1996. Pp. xi, 268. 

The late- 1980s and 90s have seen increasing attention directed to practices of 
edition-making. In Unediting the Renaissance, Leah Marcus approaches the early 
modern text by focusing upon material history and examining selected sixteenth- 
and seventeenth-century works, including multiple-text plays of Shakespeare, 
Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, and the poetry of Herbert and Milton. Marcus argues 
that in many instances the material text itself encodes meaning; she suggests that 
to undervalue material signification, usually lost in the fashioning of modern editions, 
is to miss the inscribed point, which is often a component of design. However, the 
agency of such design is a vexed subject, as Marcus occasionally allows. 

Marcus begins the unediting process by examining editorial treatments of a 
three-word phrase in Shakespeare's The Tempest, Prospero's description of 
Caliban's mother Sycorax as a "blew ey'd hag" (TLN 396). Marcus considers the 
various ways in which nineteenth- and twentieth-century editors have explained 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 79 



the phrase in its usually modernized form. "In nearly all modern editions," she 
argues, "blue-eyed" "is glossed in a way that cancels out its potential for disrupting 
the self/other binary that has characterized most readings of the play" (p. 6). 
Marcus' survey of multiple interpretive possibilities opens up both the phrase and 
Prospero's discursive act, and draws attention to editorial understanding as subject 
to cultural, historical, and linguistic predisposition. 

A section of the Introduction titled "The New Philology" (pp. 17-25) pro- 
vides a thumbnail history of modern editorial practices, which are described as 
taking place in three stages, beginning in the late nineteenth century and stretching 
into the present. The first of these stages, an "evolutionary and progressive" model 
of authorship (p. 17), was superseded by New Criticism and New Bibliography 
(which folded together two ideas, text as artefact and bibliography as "science"); 
this model, in turn, has been challenged by the New Philology, in which the 
"dominant textual paradigm . . . can be characterized as a network" (p. 23). Marcus 
borrows Thomas Kuhn's conception of a "paradigm shift" to signal the sea changes 
that different methodologies and perspectives have brought to bear on textual 
representations. The present, she argues, brings with it an imperative: "what is 
required is closer attention to micro-investigation of literary texts in their local and 
historically contingent forms" (p. 25). In short, Marcus' Introduction provides a 
model, sketches in a view of history, and launches a game plan. 

In the second chapter, which addresses the "A" and "B" texts of Doctor 
Faustus (first printed in 1604 and 1616, respectively), Marcus argues that the 
"different versions of the play carry different ideological freight" (p. 42). It is not 
simply a question of aesthetic superiority; equally important, she suggests, are 
alternative representations of religious practice and disposition. Radical Protes- 
tantism was associated with "Wertenberg," Faustus' adopted home in the "A" text, 
while conservative Anglican orthodoxy is associated with "Wittenberg," the more 
familiar alternative that appears in "B." Marcus' observation concerning a provoc- 
ative variant and its resonance draws attention to the potential cost of moving too 
quickly to amend "A" with reference to "B." She then expands upon her introduc- 
tory gambit, arguing that the more radical theology of "A" might be seen elsewhere 
in the 1604 version. At the same time, she acknowledges that the "B" text's 
"placement of the magician within a ceremonial context dangerously like 
England's own official style of worship would have been provocative in the 
extreme" (pp. 61-62). Both versions might be understood to challenge religious 
orthodoxy, and the "Marlowe effect," differently inscribed, is alive in each. 

In the chapter entitled "Bad Taste and Bad Hamlet,'' Marcus imports the 
oral ity /literacy binary, and attempts to argue that as Hamlet texts move forward in 
time — from Ql (1603) through Q2 (1604-5) and Fl (1623) — one begins to see 
a phenomenon that might be described as a shift from a more "oral" text (Ql) 
toward increasingly "literate" texts (Q2 and Fl). Her argument depends upon a 
stable relationship between printed text and date, but the relation of any of these 



80 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



texts to prior (manuscript?) copy is unknown; one cannot reasonably assume that 
the dates appearing on printed copies establish temporal sequence. 

In order to explore the differences between the Ql version and later versions 
of Hamlet's soliloquy, "To be or not to be," Marcus shifts her attention to "actors 
and directors" (p. 152). Christopher McCullough, who appeared in a Ql Hamlet 
in 1982 at the University College of Swansea, suggests that the Ql version of the 
soliloquy "only made sense if I said it to the audience" (p. 154). McCullough 
makes a compelling case for the value of Ql as a performance text of Hamlet; 
however, as a springboard for Marcus' argument concerning priority, the actor's 
testimony falls short. More important, the discussion of the theoretical applicabil- 
ity of "orality" and "literacy" as mapped onto the plays is brief and unpersuasive. 
As the chapter proceeds, Marcus relies more and more heavily upon the terms 
"conjecture" and "hypothesis," and constructions such as "it is possible that . . . ," 
and in the final pages of the chapter she acknowledges the scope of her "extended 
speculations" (p. 168). 

In the final chapter, Marcus extends her discussion of the material text to 
non-dramatic literature, and different arguments come into play. For example, she 
explores conceptions of the book as body, as well as the significance of front matter 
(including visual representations of the author) and differences among alternative 
editions. Editorial issues are central to Marcus' consideration because, in her view, 
when it comes to printed collections of poetry, in particular, "modern editions 
undermine [the] configurations of authorial identity offered in early modern 
printed materials" (p. 180). Marcus efficiently exposes an irony associated with 
the New Bibliography. She argues that by erasing signs of the material text, editors 
erase the very authorial identity they seek to reconstitute, for materiality often 
encodes meaning. The argument that underlies this claim concerns whether or not 
the writers in question (are known to have) participated in determining the material 
forms that specific collections assumed. 

The argument concerning Herbert's familiar shaped poem, "Easter Wings," 
is incisive and accomplished. In this case, shape is clearly crucial to meaning, for 
"[o]nce the symbolic equivalence between book and wings is established, the 
reader's turning of the leaves of the book becomes parallel to the motion of the 
wings in flight as they lead the soul to God" (p. 182). This is an interesting example, 
for it establishes a compelling relationship among configuration, materiality, and 
meaning. 

Unediting the Renaissance includes both good arguments and provocative 
hypotheses in its efforts to explore the materiality of early modern texts. While 
some conjectures are less persuasive, many of the arguments effect a rethinking 
of the role of the editor as maker, and an interrogation of the significance of textual 
features that for far too long have been taken for granted. 

DALE CHURCHWARD, Upper Canada College 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 81 



Laurie E. Maguire. Shakespearean Suspect Texts: The "Bad" Quartos and Their 
Contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Pp. xvii, 427. 

Although non-specialists often assume that Shakespeare's canonical work survives 
in autograph manuscripts — a notion perhaps perpetuated by over-publicised 
conspiracy theories that his plays were "really penned" by a Person of Quality such 
as Francis Bacon or the Earl of Oxford — in fact our only sources are early printed 
texts. Chief of these is the collected volume known as the First Folio, issued by 
Shakespeare's fellow actors in 1623, seven years after the playwright's death. 
Before then single-volume editions of certain plays appeared in quarto or octavo 
(i.e., smaller and cheaper format books), but often in markedly different versions, 
which partly reflect the influence of stage production in Shakespeare's London. 
While this gives the quartos potential value as performance documents, verbally 
many of their texts appear to be abbreviated and/or debased versions of the Folio 
plays, which on the whole are fuller and more aesthetically refined. Yet because the 
Folio is fraught with textual problems of its own, the pre- 1623 quartos often supply 
corrective or more compelling readings. Since the late seventeenth century, textual 
scholars have tried to account for their provenance and authenticity. In 1909 A. W. 
Pollard categorised texts such as Romeo and Juliet (Ql 1597), Henry V (Ql 1600), 
and Hamlet (Ql 1603) as "bad" quartos, which he distinguished from "good" ones 
such as King Lear (1608), whose variants seem to reflect legitimate alternatives 
rather than corruption stemming from manuscript-copy obscurity, printing house 
errors, illicit publication, or other causes. 

Soon after Pollard introduced his Manichean division, W. W. Greg advanced 
a theory for one of these other causes. The "bad" state of the quartos, he argued, 
was the result of "memorial reconstruction," in which players wrote down versions 
of Shakespeare's work they had recently performed. The quartos' "badness" could 
be explained by lapses in memory resulting in categorisable errors such as omis- 
sion, repetition, anticipation, and substitution of general terms for specific details. 
Gradually, other critics buttressed Greg's theory and extended it to non-Shake- 
spearian play-texts seeming to exhibit the same anomalies. The anti-canon of 
memorial reconstructed or reported plays grew to over 40. 

Of late, however, Greg's theory has come under attack by scholars on the 
grounds that it is under-theorised, over-applied, based on woolly notions about the 
real operation of memory, and dependent on subjective assessments of textual and 
aesthetic "badness." Although objections to memorial reconstruction have been 
voiced from the very beginning, this negative reaction can effectively be dated 
from the early 1980s, when critics reassessing quarto and Folio King Lear advanced 
a competing theory: that the alleged signs of corruption in the pre- 1623 quartos 
are actually evidence of deliberate theatrical adaption and revision, probably by 
Shakespeare himself. In other words, the quartos are different versions produced 
by agencies undeserving of the morally freighted epithets "good" and "bad." Since 



82 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



then the "revision" thesis has gained strength, although it remains contested and 
suits some quartos better than others. 

Laurie E. Maguire has taken the measure of these developments to offer a 
much-needed revaluation of 41 Shakespearian and non- Shakespearian "bad" quar- 
tos. This comprehensiveness earns unprecedented authority, since past investiga- 
tions have too often been based on piecemeal diagnoses of a few texts subsequently 
built up into overreaching generalisations. In Part Two, the heart of her book, she 
rigorously appraises 28 features that since W. W. Greg's 1910 study of The Merry 
Wives of Windsor (Q 1 602) have been used to identify memorial reconstruction. 
In the end she demonstrates that very few of these are relevant to the primal scene 
of actors recalling and transcribing play-scripts from memory. Maguire follows up 
this purging of spurious diagnostic criteria and imprecise terminology with point- 
form textual summaries of all 41 suspect texts. Her tables aim to present accessible 
information while avoiding "the 'cause and effect' scenario inherent in the narra- 
tive method" (p. 227) of textual criticism. The latter, as she shows tellingly in Part 
One, has often adopted certain generic features of detective fiction, in which the 
textual sleuth tracks down incriminating evidence to piece together a devastating 
exposure of memorial fraud. Part of reconstruction's persuasiveness, in other 
words, has been a function of its rhetorical enactment of investigative expertise 
and consummate closure. While Maguire's analysis in this regard is astutely 
convincing, her tables do not completely avoid the determining presence of 
narrative argument. In fact they partly occlude it, since what this study offers — 
as Maguire herself recognises — is not formula and proof but critical interpretation 
of historically unique combinations of theatrical scripts and agencies. The textual "facts" 
and non-dogmatic conclusions she chooses to disclose have been selected, prioritised, 
and internally narrativised before being set down in verbally abstemious form. 

This presentation also seems like a curious throwback to the "scientific" 
approach to textual scholarship which was fashionable earlier this century and 
helped to impel and legitimate memorial reconstruction. Maguire examines this 
intellectual context in Part One: from the theory's roots in the New Bibliography, 
which successfully systematised the editing of texts based on the material produc- 
tion of early modem books, to the positivist yearnings of its early exponents. Her 
fascinating and admirably historicised account shows how these "Men of Science" 
sought deductive laws to explain the "badness" of the quartos, while ignoring the 
necessity of interpreting the infinitely variable human factors involved in the 
scripting and performance of each one, factors that must inevitably resist uniform 
laws or macro-principles. The unsuspected hero of her story is W. W. Greg, who, 
while failing to offer the comprehensive survey which might have provided a surer 
basis for detecting reported texts, nonetheless remained aware of his own method- 
ological weaknesses, presented his conclusions tentatively, and continued to be 
sceptical of memorial reconstruction as an interpretive theory. Later scholars swept 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 83 



away Greg's provisionality, however, and corralled the "bad quartos" into an 
artificially homogeneous group. 

Maguire's revisionary work successfully proves there is only one universal 
amongst these texts: that each is a law unto itself, even though each one does not 
necessarily demand unique rules to be explained. In the end she does not quite 
dismiss the idea of memorial reconstruction, but narrows it to a probability in only 
a few cases. Her timely book provides a fresh point of departure from which textual 
scholars will test and re-evaluate received claims about these texts and their 
relationship to Shakespeare's Folio plays. 

RANDALL MARTIN, University of New Brunswick 



Phihp Beitchman. Alchemy of the Word: Cabala of the Renaissance. Albany: 
State University of New York Press, 1998. Pp. xiv, 364. 

All published occult texts are paradoxical, in that they expose to vulgar eyes secrets 
understood only by initiates. The Cabala, here identified mainly with the late 
thirteenth-century Zohar (Book of Splendour), epitomizes this contradiction by 
purporting to represent the oral instruction that God vouchsafed to Moses as a 
supplement to the inscribed decalogue. (One meaning of cabal in Hebrew is "that 
which is not, cannot be written down" [p. 19].) Far from being a direct revelation, 
however, the Zohar is actually a commentary on the Torah (or Pentateuch) whose 
textual fluidity and indeterminacy can only invite further speculation: while it 
explicates enigmas (especially those confronting theodicy) in the canonical text, its 
own style is so enigmatic that any "secret revealed is immediately reconstituted as 
another order of mystery" (p. 63). It is this "contemporary" aspect of Cabala that 
most fascinates Philip Beitchman. For him, the Zohar, whose "floating . . . signifi- 
ers" (p. 116) provoke "wonder, imagination, curiosity, and insecurity about its own 
status as a text" (p. 31), is "a consummately Renaissance problematization of writer, 
reader, and work, which anticipates, prepares, and probably helped to create 
contemporary critical attitudes and ambivalences as well as modern textual strate- 
gies and deconstructions" (p. 7). 

Beitchman's four long chapters imply a straightforward organization: "In the 
Beginning" (origins and early traditions of Jewish Cabala); "The Secret of 
Agrippa" (Christian Cabala in the Renaissance); an annotated "Bibliographica 
Kabbalistica" of mainly continental works; and "Cabala in England, 1497-1700." 
But this is neither a linear history, nor a conventional bibliographical tool, nor a 
traditional scholarly synthesis. Rather, by honouring the dialogic style and inher- 
ently provisional meanings of the Zohar, Beitchman renders Alchemy of the Word 
itself a "cabalistic" text, in that its mode and aims are ultimately speculative. This 
is "a study of the impact and implications y immediate and long range of the Cabala 



84 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



of the Renaissance" (p. ix; emphasis added). Hence Joyce, Kafka, Derrida, Eco, 
Bloom and Blanchot (among others) rub shoulders throughout with Pico della 
Mirandola, Ficino, Reuchlin, John Dee, Robert Fludd, Thomas Vaughan, et al. In 
the chapter nominally devoted to Agrippa and Christian Cabala, a sub-section on 
"Cabala between Freud and Jung" interposes, and the "critical annotations" in the 
"Bibliographica Kabbalistica" typically become free-standing speculations unre- 
lated to the text at hand: e.g., the title alone of Tommaso Garzoni's Universal 
Fortress (15S5) is the point of departure for a six-page excursus on "Saint Teresa's 
Castle and Kafka's" (pp. 159-64). 

Most of the historical material here, as the author acknowledges, is based on 
standard sources: Gershom Scholem for the Jewish Cabala; Joseph Blau and 
François Secret for Christian Cabala; and (somewhat dubiously) Arthur Edward 
Waite and Frances Yates for a "demiurgic Neopagan Cabala." Nor has Beitchman 
read most of the eighty-odd books in his Renaissance cabalistic bibliography, 
relying instead on the summaries in Waite, Scholem, Thomdike's A History of 
Magic and Experimental Science and others, and preferring to be "tempt[ed] to 
conjecture" (p. 146) about "long range implications." 

Various methodologies lie behind this madness. On the one hand, Beitchman 
adopts "the lens of poststructuralist theory" to perform "an experiment in new 
historicism." Oddly, though, he identifies the latter with Christopher Hill and 
Raymond Williams (pp. 230-31, where he actually cites a 1962 study by George 
Williams, Raymond never appearing), and (as well as failing to define or theorize 
the "new") he demonstrates kinship with neither the British cultural materialists 
nor the North American exponents of new historicism (Greenblatt et ai). On the 
other hand, he rejects, along with the "traditional author-focused approach," the 
"current text- and discourse-centered one" (p. 57), in favour of a "rhizomatous, 
'nomadilogical'" model as found in Deleuze and Guattari's J, 000 Plateaus. Here 
lies Beitchman's heart: 

A rhizome, or rootstalk/rootstock, is a more subtle and invisible entity than the plant or 
tree above it, tending more indefinitely toward horizontal proliferation rather than a 
marked and marking verticality. Texts-as-rhizomes eschew, accordingly, privilege, hier- 
archy, credit, and visibility of point and situation, existing namelessly as lines, vectors, 
and speeds. Nor does a rhizome deign to present or represent a world, which trees and 
plants have always done; nor does it mean, symbolize, or signify, but rather underlies, 
accompanies, and parallels events, in the sense of being merely another level in a world 
made only of levels, or one in a thousand "plateaus." (p. 58) 

At its best, Beitchman's rhizomic reading can suggest interesting avenues for 
further thought, such as the demonstrated links between Cabala and Renaissance 
alchemy and medicine, or the plausible relationship between cabalistic study and 
the diaspora, or the possible connection between an "oppositional" mysticism 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 85 



within the Society of Jesus and the interest of certain Jesuits in the Cabala, or the 
conjectured influence of Cabala on Zionist politics. 

At its worst, however, such an approach becomes root-bound, repetitious and 
— especially when applied to literature — unhelpful. For if rhizomic texts do not 
"deign to present or represent a world," that is precisely what Renaissance 
imaginative writing does so powerfully. Here, complex verbal worlds are cut down 
to their invisible roots, so that, for example. Agrippa is "the model for Marlowe's 
Doctor Faustus" (p. 89); Cabala is "pervasive" in Shakespeare, where (among 
other things) "Prospero represents the ultimate triumph and redemption of John 
Dee" (pp. 212, 245). Spenser's "two heroines, Una and Duessa, truth and false- 
hood, [are] accorded, respectively. Books One and Two of The Faerie Queene" (p. 
219), to which "a magical, numerological-Pythagorean Cabala that Spenser had 
absorbed from Dee was structurally essential" (p. 244), and in which Redcrosse 
Knight's dream is "borrow[ed], more or less directly, from The Zohar" (p. 259). 
Christ's chariot (or "getaway car") in Paradise Lost comes from "Cabala or an 
allied tradition, that of Hebrew-Gnostic 'merkabah mysticism,'" while "reflec- 
tions" of a certain cabalistic theodicy "likely contributed to the complexity of the 
titanic figure of Satan ... as well as to the credibility of the adjustment that Adam 
and Eve, and even Milton's Jesus, are able to make to an imperfect world" (p. 259). 
Sir Thomas Browne's famous passage on the "true Amphibium" illustrates "the 
way Cabala works to substantiate a conception for which sheer scripture is 
insufficient" (pp. 255-56). And so on. 

While the "roots" of these recognizable (if at times even further simplified) 
interpretations (Yates, Fowler, Saurat, among others) are acknowledged in the 
notes, Beitchman does little more than restate them; nor does he cite more balanced 
studies along these lines (e.g., Michael Keefer's 1991 edition of Doctor Faustus), 
or indeed some of the more recent historical studies of his key figures, such as the 
many works of Allen G. Debus on the English Paracelsians, William H. Huffman 
on Robert Fludd, Lotte Mulligan on the Henry More-Thomas Vaughan controversy 
(in Brian Vickers' Occult and Scientific Mentalities in the Renaissance [1984]), 
the 1984 scholarly edition of Vaughan by Alan Rudrum, or Keefer on Agrippa in 
Renaissance Quarterly (1988). 

The charge of reductionism may seem unfair in light of Beitchman's acknowl- 
edgment of "the partial way" he treats these "'mystic heroes' of Cabala" and his 
anticipation of being called "simplistic and distorting" in viewing, e.g., the 
"multidimensional" John Dee only in "the role of Magus" (p. xiii). Yet the author's 
apology does not extend to literary interpretation and consists only in pointing out 
that scholarly fashions change with the times: Frances Yates and her followers, in 
rescuing Dee from "a reputation of charlatan-obscurantist" by emphasizing "the 
importance of Hermeticism, Alchemy, and Cabala" for him and the Renaissance, 
provided "a rewriting of history that was tonic and exciting for our idealist-mys- 
tical, radical, and psychedelic 1960s and 1970s," while the recent revaluations by 



86 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Nicholas Clulee and William H. Sherman are seen as filling a need, "in our 
hard-headed, economic 1990s," for a "more practical Dee." Ultimately everything, 
like the Zohar itself, is relative: "Dee, Pico, Agrippa, and other mercurial caba- 
lists-and-much-else, were always, anyway, what one wanted them to be" (p. xiv). 
(Compare, among other statements, that on pp. 44-45: "Cabala is very much what 
is made of it.") It is one thing to acknowledge contingency and to historicize, as 
best we can, our own scholarly judgements; it is another merely to assert a personal 
preference (by temperament, Beitchman is clearly on the side of the "radical" 
sixties and seventies). 

The book's general position — that Cabala was more widely known in the 
Renaissance than Joseph Blau had thought in 1944 — may be taken as proven by 
the many post-Blau studies cited here. Its more far-reaching thesis — that Cabala's 
"mission" was "to help the 'truths' of religion survive the challenges of a dawning 
secular and material age," and that it was a "bold and original reading and rendition 
of scripture, custom, and tradition, one that allowed people more room in adjusting 
to what was happening to them, while contributing to their sense that nothing 
essential was being lost or forgotten" (p. ix) — remains to be demonstrated. 

Despite its speculative mode and its rhizomic preoccupations, however, this 
erudite volume will be welcome to those who, like myself, need a guide to (if not 
through) the Renaissance Cabala. It is not user-friendly in structure or style, nor 
will its literary interpretations satisfy. But it does bring together much earlier work 
and provide a starting place for a foray into this interesting and often important 
quarter of the unknowable. 

ROBERT M. SCHULER, University of Victoria 



Hilary Gatti. Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science. Ithaca, NY: Cornell 
University Press, 1999. Pp. x, 257. 

Regarding the great and vexed question of the relationship between science and 
magic in the Renaissance, Brian Vickers has remarked, "who could ever hold the 
whole of such a vast field in his head?" (Introduction, Occult and Scientific 
Mentalities in the Renaissance, ed. Brian Vickers [Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- 
sity Press], p. 2), and the same question could very well be asked of the figure of 
Giordano Bruno, whose thought seems to touch on every aspect of this enormously 
complicated subject. In Giordano Bruno and Renaissance Science, Hilary Gatti 
continues and develops an approach that she began in her earlier work, The 
Renaissance Drama of Knowledge: Giordano Bruno in England (19^9), where she 
had asserted that the Yatesian thesis of Bruno as Renaissance magus "was pushed 
too far" (p. 49). At the beginning of her latest study, Gatti suggests that Bruno's 
concern with occultism and magic should be seen as complementing his concern 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 87 



with the new science, "particularly now that so many scientists of the early modern 
period, up to and including Newton, are known to have read extensively in such 
subjects and to have considered them integral parts of their culture" (p. ix). What 
emerges most clearly from this book, however, is that Bruno deserves far more 
credit as a serious scientific thinker than he has previously been accorded, although 
such a judgement itself may partly rest on our own ideological bias at this moment 
in history. 

Instead of concluding from the various differences between Bruno's philos- 
ophy and early modern science that "his thought about the natural universe was 
antiquated and irrelevant to the modern world," Gatti argues that it may be more 
accurate to see Bruno "as putting forward an idea of the universe and of the 
impossibility of the human mind's capability of reaching exact and final knowl- 
edge of its workings, which anticipates many ideas familiar to our post-Einsteinian 
era, dominated by the approximations of relativity theory and quantum mechanics" 
(p. 6). In other words, Bruno was not a little behind his time, but well ahead of it, 
and thus Gatti 's study offers another fascinating example of the curious cultural 
parallels between the early modern and postmodern worlds, parallels which are 
emerging with increasing frequency in Renaissance studies. 

Gatti's reading of Bruno as one of the earliest philosophers of the new science, 
rather than as a kind of Hermetic demigod, is largely convincing; it is certainly no 
longer possible after reading this study to accept Yates's "celebrated conclusion 
that Bruno's Copernicanism should not be seen in the context of the history of 
astronomy but rather as 'a hieroglyph, a Hermetic seal hiding potent divine 
mysteries'" (p. 17). Nevertheless, at times Gatti seems to remove Bruno too far 
from the magical context which she promises to contextualize in her opening 
remarks. If Bruno sets himself up as "the captain who can make sense of the 
information given to him by the rustic observers ... the blind Tiresius who can 
divine the true message behind the signs communicated to him by those who see" 
(p. 51), then surely it is impossible for us to lose sight of, or ignore entirely, the 
idea of Bruno the Magus, involving all those blurred but fascinating categories of 
Renaissance psychology, theology, and magic with which he has been associated. 
Bruno after all considers himself to be exercising a prophetic insight that interprets 
nature on a higher level than is accessible to mere observers of physical and 
mathematical quantities. 

The one mention of Bruno's De vinculis in genere, which "represents a 
remarkable attempt to demonstrate the ways in which language in all its forms acts 
on human behavior, influencing and even enslaving the will" (p. 3), curiously 
commends that work as one of his most original contributions to the development 
of the new science, whereas loan Couliano has seen it (albeit somewhat contro- 
versially) as establishing "magic as general psychosociology" (Eros and Magic in 
the Renaissance [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987], p. 102). Gatti's 
frequent admission that Bruno consistently maintained a biological-animistic 



88 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



approach to cosmological questions would seem to retain his "scientific" thought 
within the compass of speculation about "magical" (even erotic) attractions 
between planets and other bodies. Somewhat dubious as well is Gatti's suggestion 
that the second trilogy of Italian dialogues published in England, ending with the 
Heroic Frenzy, actually offers ideas and attitudes that pre-date the first trilogy, 
beginning with the Ash Wednesday Supper, so that the final trilogy offers only the 
story of Bruno's Hermetic Neoplatonic intellectual past. Even if this is true, the 
later Italian dialogues still likely influenced Elizabethan writers along the Her- 
metic Neoplatonic lines that Bruno supposedly refuted. 

Nevertheless, Gatti's argument concerning Bruno's preference for a 
Pythagorean immanence over a Platonic transcendence is fascinating in its 
implications. Since all creation partakes of the infinite, there is "an end to the 
hierarchy of being" (p. 112), and Bruno presents the endeavours of the inquiring 
mind "as a penetration into the essential meaning of the infinite ocean of being" 
(p. 190), rather than as an ascent. Such a description of the scientific process may 
raise troubling questions about attitudes towards nature and gender in "inquiring 
minds" active in other disciplines. Gatti concludes her discussion oïDe immenso 
with a passage which constructs Bruno as a new scientist who has cast off the 
shackles of mystical frenzies, who no longer attempts to merge himself with the 
object of his contemplation: 

The age of Narcissus is over, and the decadent courts of the renaissance, with their eunuch 
voices, have had their day. The new piper, classless and pragmatic, will advance in the 
footprints left long ago by Pan ... in an attempt to clutch and possess the order (the 
nymphs) he has just glimpsed in those fragmentary notes. Today some might be tempted 
to see this moment as a rape; and Bruno exphcitly uses the language of gender to close 
his work. (p. 213) 

While Gatti shies away from developing the implications of these remarks, it is 
likely that future explorers of Bruno's thought will find this nexus of ideas a rich 
area of investigation. 

IAN McADAM, University ofLethhridge 



Emmanuel Faye. Philosophie et perfection de l'homme: de la Renaisssance à 
Descartes. Paris, Vrin, 1998. Pp. 397. 

Peut-on être à la fois théologien et philosophe? Voilà la grande question que pose 
ce livre qui voit le jour dans la collection "Philologie et Mercure," sous la direction 
de Pierre Magnard et s'encadre donc dans la tradition de l'humanisme latin. Cela 
n'est pas sans importance: les acteurs dans cette histoire sont des écrivains dont 
certains sont bien connus et d'autres mal connus ou méconnus, mais tous héritiers 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 89 



de ce patrimoine international, bilingue certes mais favorisant encore le latin pour 
les travaux intellectuels. 

Il faut éviter pour le moment tout jugement rapide sur l'envergure de ces 
penseurs qui sont étudiés ici "sans distinction préalable entre majores et minores'' 
(p. 38): comme l'a bien démontré le Corpus des oeuvres de philosophie en langue 
française, la valeur que peut avoir un penseur pour la compréhension de son 
époque et pour la lente progression des idées, ne dépend pas intrinsèquement de 
sa célébrité ni de son rayonnement, ni de sa survie, et d'ailleurs comme cherche à 
l'établir Emmanuel Paye, plus d'un de ces protagonistes mérite d'être tiré de 
l'oubli relatif où il est tombé. 

Le sujet de cette étude est le rapport entre la foi et la raison, la religion et la 
science, la théologie et la philosophie; il s'agit surtout de la naissance et de l'essor 
d'un humanisme exprofesso laïque dès le quinzième siècle, dans l'évolution de la 
métaphysique vers la philosophie de l'homme. Comme leitmotiv l'auteur trace 
l'idée de la perfection de l'homme, en partant de la "Science de l'homme" de 
Raymond Sebond pour arriver à la Science universelle de Descartes, tout en faisant 
un long arrêt auprès de Charles de Bovelles. La période que couvre cette histoire 
se déroule entre 1436 et 1636. 

Paye commence par nous rappeler qu'il n'existe pas encore une étude d'en- 
semble sur la philosophie de la Renaissance en Prance (ou plutôt de la philosophie 
renaissante, comme il voudrait la désigner) et que même les études partielles qui 
existent sont le plus souvent conçues dans une perspective religieuse. Pour sa part 
il se concentre sur l'essor de la philosophie de l'homme, selon "une double 
problématique, celle de la perfection de l'homme et celle de la distinction progres- 
sive entre philosophie et théologie" (p. 352). 

Les acteurs sont cinq penseurs essentiellement nonscolastiques, non acadé- 
miques. Raymond Sebond (l'auteur insiste que l'on l'appelle Sibiuda, comme ce 
Catalan se nommait dans sa propre langue — on finira sans doute par s'y habituer), 
Charles de Bovelles, Michel de Montaigne, Pierre Charron et René Descartes, qui, 
d'après l'argument de l'auteur, en des moments décisifs, se voyaient tous comme 
des philosophes, ou bien dans le cas de Montaigne, comme "humaniste." 

La première de ces cinq études présente un écrivain qui se situe à la charnière 
du Moyen Age et de la Renaissance. La formation professionnelle de Sibiuda était 
étendue et variée: philosophie scolastique, surtout lullienne, théologie, médecine, 
arts, droit canon. Son livre magistral Scientia libri creaturarum seu naturae et de 
homine, mieux connu sous le titre de Theologia naturalis, que Montaigne traduira 
plus d'un siècle plus tard, est fondé sur la dualité entre le "livre" que constitue la 
nature et les livres de la Sainte Écriture. Sibiuda cherchait sans doute l'accord des 
deux parties et la cohérence interne de tout cet argument apologétique, voulant 
rester à la fois théologien et philosophe, mais Paye voit tout de même une grande 
distinction dans les deux parties de l'ouvrage de Sibiuda, celle qui analyse la 
condition de l'homme selon la nature par rapport à Dieu et aux autres, et celle qui 



90 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



traite du salut selon la grâce de la rédemption, et se termine par un petit traité 
eschatologique. Bien que la révélation ne fournisse pas le point de départ, à la fin 
c'est la théologie qui domine: "C'est donc bien à Raymond Sibiuda que revient le 
mérite — par son effort pour réaliser une synthèse impossible — d'avoir permis à 
ses lecteurs les plus philosophes de prendre conscience du problème de la distinc- 
tion entre philosophie et théologie à propos de l'homme et de la connaissance de 
soi" (p. 72). Cette nouvelle lecture méticuleusement erudite de Sibiuda aidera à 
dissiper bien des erreurs et des imprécisions. 

En poursuivant son récit des continuités et discontinuités de l'histoire de la 
philosophie, l'auteur campe rapidement le décor des deux derniers tiers du quin- 
zième siècle, période qui est caractérisée par "la stagnation de la pensée" (p. 75). 
Ensuite, au tournant du siècle, surgit son deuxième philosophe: Charles de Bo- 
velles (1479-1567), auteur surtout en 1511 d'un livre composite sur l'intellect, le 
sens, le néant, l'art des opposés, la sagesse, les mathématiques entre autres sujets, 
dont l'importance fut reconnue par Giordano Bruno, mais qui est tombé en oubli 
pendant plus de 300 ans, pour recevoir à partir de 1857 une attention qui n'a cessé 
de croître depuis, et dont témoignent les travaux de Joseph M. Victor, Pierre 
Magnard et Jean-Claude Margolin entre autres, et bien sûr, d'Emmanuel Paye 
lui-même. 

La nuance exacte de la formation philosophique de Bovelles dans ces années 
du Moyen- Age finissant est difficile à établir, mais Paye signale l'influence de 
l'aristotélisme de Lefèvre d'Etaples, du néo-platonisme florentin et du lullisme, 
sans oublier l'apport de Nicolas de Cuse ainsi que de la logique scolastique. 
Bovelles se révèle aussi à partir de 1508 comme un lecteur avide de Sibiuda (étant 
d'ailleurs le premier philosophe français à s'y intéresser) qui l'influence dans ses 
vues sur le rôle de l'homme dans la création. Mais il fait une distinction plus 
marquée que Sibiuda entre ses livres d'ordre philosophique (1511) et théologique 
(1513-15). 

Paye analyse ensuite la "noétique" de Bovelles où l'on discerne surtout, mais 
avec grande difficulté, les origines lointaines et imprécisées de l'affirmation du 
moi que fera Montaigne et du sujet pensant qui sera le point de départ de Descartes. 
Le Livre du sage s'ouvre en effet par le "connais-toi toi-même" de l'oracle de 
Delphes. Pour Bovelles la sagesse est synonyme d'humanitas et implique la dignité 
humaine avec comme achèvement la perfection de l'homme, symbolisée par le 
mythe de Prométhée. 

En quittant Bovelles nous passons directement à Montaigne dont presque 
deux générations le séparent. La raison est simple puisque pour l'auteur "Le XVP 
siècle est philosophiquement dominé par les deux grandes figures de Bovelles et 
de Montaigne" (p. 163). Laissons de côté tout jugement sur la grandeur de 
Bovelles, en lui-même et par rapport à Montaigne, et ne cherchons pas trop à savoir 
si Montaigne peut être vraiment considéré comme philosophe; cela dépend évi- 
demment de la définition du terme. Ce qui importe pour l'argument de ce livre 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 91 



c'est de situer Montaigne dans le débat entre religion et foi. On a souvent discuté 
la question de la religion de Montaigne, se fondant surtout sur son Apologie de 
Raymond Sebond. Cet essai du Livre II soulève le plus souvent des commentaires 
sur le scepticisme de Montaigne, et une interrogation sur le bien-fondé du terme 
"apologie." Mais pour Faye il y a une autre question, encore plus essentielle, qui 
concerne la grandeur et la misère de l'homme (p. 190). 

Montaigne reprend ce que dit Sibiuda sur les deux sciences de l'homme, en 
éliminant la distinction entre l'homme avant et après la Chute. Là où Sibiuda parle 
de la misère qui résulte de la Chute, Montaigne, plus sceptique, voit plutôt un 
aspect de la nature humaine, sans avoir recours à la notion théologique du péché 
originel: ''U Apologie de Raymond Sebond délivre l'être humain du cercle de la 
grandeur et misère de l'homme dans laquelle l'enfermait la théologie" (p. 192). 

L'auteur des Essais va beaucoup plus loin que Sibiuda puisqu'il met en 
question toute la partie théologique de l'argument de son devancier, refusant de 
remonter de la connaissance de soi à la connaissance de Dieu (p. 201-3). Il voudrait 
que ses Essais soient "purement humains et philosophiques sans meslange de 
Théologie" (p. 184). Ce qui restera à la fin (voir le Livre III des Essais), lorsqu'il 
se sera débarrassé pour de bon de la théologie, et aura rejeté l'idée de l'abaissement 
de l'homme, c'est la sagesse, la philosophie humaine, la perfection socratique, le 
"sommet de la sagesse humaine" selon l'expression de Bovelles (p. 211). Dans 
"De la liberté de conscience" Montaigne dit avec insistance que "la philosophie 
seule suffit à l'acquisition de toutes les vertus morales" (p. 179), une science 
morale donc sans fondement théologique. 

Le quatrième penseur que Faye met en lumière est un petit maître, certes, 
mais qui, lui aussi, a suscité récemment un regain d'attention. Un des grands 
intérêts de Charron dans le contexte présent, c'est non seulement que son livre (La 
Sagesse) concerne la science de l'homme, c'est-à-dire la connaissance de soi et la 
condition humaine, mais qu'il a lu Sibiuda et Montaigne, et peut-être Bovelles, 
encore que cela reste hypothétique: le rapport textuel entre Charron et Bovelles, 
que Faye qualifie de "vraisemblable," ne me paraît pas autorisé, mais on peut 
accepter qu'il y a eu une communauté d'idées entre les deux auteurs (p. 251). Le 
cas de Montaigne est plus clair puisque les deux hommes se connaissaient au moins 
et puisque Montaigne est la source principale et substantielle de Charron (mais 
a-t-on le droit de conclure à une transmission de pensées sur les bases d'une 
conversation supposée [p. 261]?). Cette influence se voit surtout dans le Livre II 
de la Sagesse. Dans la première préface du livre Charron annonce son sujet, "cette 
Matière Morale et Politique, vraye science de l'homme" (p. 253) et dans la 
deuxième préface de 1604, se désignant comme philosophe, il met l'accent sur la 
sagesse, la philosophie et l'homme. Comme le dit bien l'auteur, "Pour un philo- 
sophe comme Charron, en effet, insister sur la vertu naturelle de l'homme n'im- 
plique aucunement que l'on récuse la toute-puissance de la grâce divine, puisque 



92 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



la vertu naturelle procède directement de la loi de Nature, c'est-à-dire de Dieu 
lui-même, comme l'auteur le précise maintes fois dans la Sagesse" (p. 272). 

Le dernier acteur dans cette histoire dramatique est Descartes qui, d'après 
Faye, a probablement connu Sibiuda au moins par l'intermédiare de Montaigne; 
il connaissait certainement l'oeuvre de Charron, et Faye démêle patiemment 
quelques points que Descartes avait en commun avec celui-ci: la définition de la 
vertu morale et la décision d'étudier la philosophie morale et naturelle, ainsi que 
l'empressement de tous les deux à se soumettre aux coutumes et aux lois, et surtout 
ce que Charron appelait une "vraie et essentielle preud'homie" (p. 297). Encore 
une fois ce qui nous intéresse dans le contexte actuel c'est ce que dit l'humaniste 
Descartes sur la liberté, la résolution, la générosité, la sagesse et la perfection de 
l'homme par moyen d'une science universelle et l'unité de la vertu et de la sagesse 
(p. 324). 

Faye s'insurge contre ce qu'il appelle la "théologisation" des études carté- 
siennes. Il admet que si Descartes n'accepte pas d'idée de Chute dans sa philoso- 
phie, il retient une conception avancée de la grâce, se défendant contre l'accusation 
de pélagianisme en disant que son sujet n'était pas en ce moment-là la grâce et 
qu'il fallait séparer la philosophie et la théologie. Mais, pour Faye, cela ne fait pas 
de lui un théologien. Et même cette distinction entre philosophie et théologie ne 
concerne pas tant les rapports de l'homme avec Dieu que sa propre perfection. 

L'auteur cite avec approbation une phrase de Mireille Habert: "entre l'époque 
de Sebond et celle de Montaigne s'accomplit la séparation entre l'univers des 
théologiens et celui des philosophes" (p. 222). Plutôt que la rupture totale entre 
Descartes et la Renaissance que voulait Gilson, Faye voit "une continuité pro- 
fonde" (p. 286). (Par un autre côté André Robinet, dont le livre Aux sources de 
V esprit cartésien: l'axe La Ramée -Descartes [Paris, Vrin, 1996] est sans doute 
paru trop tard pour figurer ici, pense lui aussi que Descartes ne signale pas de 
rupture, mais situe le moment du changement, et de l'avènement de la modernité 
dans une phase très précise de l'évolution de la Dialectique de Pierre de la Ramée.) 
Faye a bien mené son enquête et on peut lui faire confiance sur cette analyse de 
l'émergence de la philosophie de l'homme. Seulement (comme l'auteur le démon- 
tre très bien) les écrivains étudiés ici étaient des croyants (à ce que nous pouvons 
savoir à cette distance) et se consacraient, à des moments différents, et à des degrés 
différents, à des travaux dans les deux champs. Mais peut-on vraiment mettre en 
suspension provisoire des convictions profondes? La séparation des deux do- 
maines n'était-elle donc pas parfois fictive, artificielle, hypothétique? (Il y a 
évidemment un grand danger de pétition de principe de part et d'autre dans cet 
argument.) 

Il me semble que parfois l'auteur n'accorde pas assez d'importance à l'aspect 
théologique et force trop l'argument. Comment juger, par exemple, le chemin 
parcouru par Charron entre les Trois véritéz (1593) et la Sagesse (1601)? Faye 
signale la séparation entre l'oeuvre apologétique et l'oeuvre de philosophie morale 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 93 



et naturelle, mais a-t-il raison de suggérer que Charron ait publié d'abord les Trois 
véritéz afin de laisser le champ libre à la philosophie? Ne s'agirait-il pas tout 
simplement de deux livres distincts sur deux sujets différents et sans qu'il y ait eu 
évolution intellectuelle entre les deux? Par ailleurs Faye cite une phrase clé de la 
préface au Livre I de la Sagesse, mais sans s'y attarder: "par la cognoissance de 
soy l'homme monte et arrive plustost et mieux à la cognoissance de Dieu, que par 
toute autre chose" (p. 243). Le sujet de la Sagesse est certainement l'homme et la 
condition humaine, et Dieu avait été traité dans les Trois veritez de 1593, comme 
l'admet Faye, mais la phrase que je viens de citer est néanmoins lapidaire et 
incontournable (p. 243). Et une autre phrase qu'il cite mais sans la commenter me 
semble on ne peut plus révélatrice: "si l'homme eust esté sage, et se fust préservé 
en Testât où Dieu l'avoit mis" (p. 246): Charron n'indique-t-il pas ici clairement 
que l'homme n'a pas été sage (qu'il a donc péché), et qu'il ne s'est justement pas 
préservé dans l'état de bonheur où Dieu l'avait mis et qu'il a donc connu la Chute? 
Ces penseurs ont écrit des ouvrages d'ordre très différent sans se scinder en 
deux, de la même manière que l'auteur du Phénomène humain et celui du Milieu 
divin était une seule et même personne. Là aussi, on peut évidemment parler de 
séparation des deux domaines, ou bien d'accord fondamental. Quoi qu'il en soit 
le livre d'Emmanuel Faye est un travail important qui trace magistralement 
l'histoire de cette filiation intellectuelle qu'il a identifiée, l'analysant en elle- 
même, et à travers ce qu'en ont dit d'autres érudits, ne cherchant pas la polémique 
dans un domaine souvent controversé, mais menant son argument toujours avec 
vigueur pour ne pas dire robustesse et parfois avec une certaine sévérité. Son livre 
ouvrira, comme il le souhaite, de nouvelles perspectives de recherche. 

PETER SHARRATT, Université d'Edimbourg 



Booknotes 
Notes de lecture 



Michel Jeanneret. Perpetuum Mobile, Metamorphoses des corps et des oeuvres 
de Vinci à Montaigne. Paris, Macula, coll. Argô, s.d. [1997]. Pp. 331. 

Après ses deux derniers ouvrages {Des Mets et des mots [1987] et Le Défi des signes 
[1994]) qui avaient profondément renouvelé notre connaissance des grands auteurs 
français de la Renaissance, Michel Jeanneret publie un nouveau livre à la fois en 
version française et en version anglaise (Johns Hopkins University Press). C'est à 
la notion de métamorphose que s'attache l'érudit pour suggérer le foisonnement 
créatif des oeuvres et leur perpétuelle gestation. Vinci, pour l'art, Erasme, Rabelais, 
Ronsard, Palissy, Du Bartas et Montaigne pour la littérature, sont au coeur de cette 
étude et révèlent leur quête incessante de la varietas, et leur insatisfaction, leur 
angoisse même, devant la finitude. Jeanneret éclaire parfaitement le processus 
génératif de leurs oeuvres qui reproduisent, dans les formes, la fascination 
qu'exerce sur les artistes la métamorphose comme motif et comme concept. 

FRANÇOIS ROUGET, Queen's University 



Walter S. H. Lim. The Arts of Empire: The Poetics of Colonialism from Ralegh 
to M//ro«. Newark: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated Univer- 
sity Presses, 1998. Pp. 275. 

Walter Lim's instructive book consists of five essays on Ralegh, Donne, Spenser, 
Milton, and Shakespeare's Othello. A "Poetics of Colonialism" does not quite 
emerge from these essays, but they converge sufficiently for one to speculate on 
how such a poetics might be characterized. The 57 references to Queen Elizabeth 
establish her status as an icon but also draw attention to her shifting place in an 
uneasy liaison between the literary and the literal. These ambivalences need to be 
brought into engagement with the diverse yet coalescent forms of nationhood set 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 1 (1999) /95 



96 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



out in Helgerson's now-classic book. Helgerson does not find imperialism inherent 
or even implicit in his "forms." Lim presumably thinks otherwise (p. 23). In this 
reviewer's opinion, he is correct in doing so. But the continuities of a discourse (or 
more ambitiously, a poetics) that brings the forms of nationhood and the imperial 
imagination into engagement with each other need to be brought out more strongly 
if the book is to proceed in the direction of its title. There is a basis in the essays for 
this move forward. 

The individual case studies are thoughtful, well-documented, and lucidly 
argued. It is sad, however, to see Donne's Elegy XIX studied without any reference 
to his puns. In a discourse of liaisons — particularly when the participants subvert 
or even invert each other — the pun can be considerably more than a verbal device. 
There is no reference to the Trinity of post-colonial thought — Said, Bhabha, and 
Spivak — but the book has unobtrusively benefited from their thinking. 

B ALACHANDRA RAJAN, University of Western Ontario 



Patrick Cheney. Marlowe's Counterfeit Profession: Ovid, Spenser, Counter- 
Nationhood. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997. Pp. xii, 402. 

This important new book follows Cheney's 1993 study of Spenser's literary career, 
Spenser's Famous Flight. Here he turns his attention to a more difficult subject, the 
brief and brilliant career of Christopher Marlowe, which has never appeared to 
possess the clear sense of purpose so self-consciously embraced and advertised by 
Spenser. Cheney argues, however, that Marlowe's career was fashioned in an 
equally deliberate manner. In opposition to Spenser's Virgilian poetics of nation- 
hood, Marlowe's Ovidian "tragic poetics of counter-nationhood . . . foregrounds a 
bitter objection to the power structure's tyrannical, deterministic suppression of 
individual freedom" (p. 21). Where Spenser's Virgilian path took him from pastoral 
to epic, the Ovidian path pursued by Marlowe leads from amatory poetry (Ovid's 
Elegies) through tragedy (the seven plays) to epic (Lucan 's First Book, Hero and 
Leander). Supporting this re-imagined career path are some assumptions regarding 
the dating of Marlowe's work that will no doubt be debated: of particular importance 
to Cheney is that the rarely considered translation of Lucan is no apprentice piece, 
but a late work to be set alongside Hero and Leander in the final Ovidian epic phase 
of the poet's brief career. Marlowe's Counterfeit Prof ession offers helpful and insightful 
readings of individual texts (the chapter devoted to "The Passionate Shepherd to His 
Love" is something of a tour de force), but the real contribution of this worthy book 
lies in its comprehensiveness {all of Marlowe's work is examined) and in its attempt to 
find coherence in a canon that has always appeared something of a jumble. 

BRIAN PATTON, King's College, University of Western Ontario 



The editor welcomes submissions in English or French on any aspect of the 
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The journal does not accept unsolicited reviews. However, those interested in reviewing 
books should contact the Book Review Editor. 



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VOLUME X X I I 1 NUMBER 



SPRING 1999 



ENAISSANGE 

ND REFORMATION 





RENAISSANCE 



VOLUME XXIII NUMÉRO 2 PRINTEMPS 1999 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme is published quarterly (February, 
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Directeur / Editor 

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Spring / printemps 1999 (date of issue: March 2001 mars) 




New Series, Vol. XXHI, No. 2 Nouvelle Série, Vol. XXm, No2 

Old Series, Vol. XXXV, No. 2 1 999 Ancienne Série, Vol. XXXV, No 2 



^^ 2 2 2001 



>Vy o\ ^K 




CONTENTS / SOMMAIRE 



EDITORIAL 

3 

ARTICLES 



"To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing": 

Johannes Kepler's Dream of Reading Knowledge 

by Elizabeth A. Spiller 

5 



Two Renaissance Lives: Benvenuto Cellini and Teresa of Jesus 

by Yemin Chao 
29 

The End of Chivalric Romance: Barthélémy Aneau's Alector (1560) 

by Virginia Krause 
45 

Recovering the Curse of Eve: John Donne's Churching Sermons 

by Jeffrey Johnson 
61 

BOOK REVIEV^S/COMPTES RENDUS 

Alfredo Périfano. U alchimie à la cour de Come I^^ de Médicis 

recensé par Ilana Zinguer 
73 



Edward Muir. Ritual in Early Modem Europe 

reviewed by Mark W. Konnert 

76 

Maurice Scève. The Entry of Henri II into Lyon: September 1548 

recensé par Marie-France Wagner 

78 

Ellen E. Kittell and Thomas F. Madden, eds. 

Medieval and Renaissance Venice 

reviewed by Joseph P. Byrne 

81 

Nathalie Dauvois. Prose et poésie dans les Essais de Montaigne 

recensé par Cathy Yandell 
83 

Ilona Bell. Elizabethan Women and the Poetry of Courtship 

reviewed by Joan Curbet 
85 

BOOKNOTES/NOTES DE LECTURE 

Anthony Blunt. Art and Architecture in France 1500-1700. 5th ed. 

recensé by François Rouget 
89 

James Doelman, ed. Early Stuart Pastoral: 

The Shepherd's Pipe by William Browne and Others and 

The Shepherd's Hunting by George Wither 

reviewed by Brian Patton 

89 

Marie-Christine Gomez-Géraud. Le Crépuscule du Grand Voyage. 

Les Récits de pèlerins à Jérusalem (1458-1612) 

recensé by François Rouget 

90 



Editorial 



All the articles of the present issue 
delineate forms of transcendence, 
though from widely differing perspec- 
tives. By contrast, this decidedly pedes- 
trian notice will record some modest 
steps in the journal's evolution. The first 
two of these aim at better serving the 
interests of both readers and contribu- 
tors in tangible ways, given our multi- 
disciplinary, international, and bilingual 
orientation. Beginning with tiie current 
issue, the introductory summaries of 
articles will serve, we hope, a more use- 
ful purpose by appearing in our "other" 
working language. Secondly, in forth- 
coming issues, we will be adjusting our 
French "house style" to conform to the 
conventions generally accepted in that 
language. Finally, a virtual, rather than 
a tangible, change, but one that prom- 
ises far-reaching benefits: we have 
decided that it is time for Renaissance 
and Reformation to have its own modest 
site on tiie Internet, and the University 
of Western Ontario has generously 
made this possible. The site will, of 
course, offer information for potential 
contributors and subscribers. Also 
envisaged is a list of the contents of all 
issues since the founding of the journal 
some thirty-five years ago, as well as 
links to related sites and announcements 
of scholarly events and opportunities. It 
would be slightly premature to 
announce our Internet address at this 
point, but we hope that the site will be 
well past the "under construction" stage 
by the time of our next issue. 



Malgré le fait que tous les articles du 
présent numéro abordent, de différents 
points de vue, la transcendance, voici 
quelques annonces terre-à-terre. Avec 
deux modifications de la présentation de 
nos textes, nous pensons mieux servir 
nos auteurs et lecteurs, tout en tenant 
compte du caractère pluridisciplinaire, 
international et bilingue de la revue. À 
partir de maintenant, nos articles en An- 
glais seront précédés d'un résumé en 
Français, et vice versa, afin que ces som- 
maires soient encore plus utiles. En- 
suite, dès le prochain numéro nous 
adopterons, dans nos textes de langue 
française, les normes en matière de pré- 
sentation qui sont généralement prati- 
quées dans le monde francophone. 
Finalement, un changement plutôt vir- 
tuel que textuel qui néanmoins promet 
des avantages rayonnants: grâce à l'U- 
niversité de Western Ontario, Renais- 
sance et Réforme disposera bientôt de 
son propre site Web. On y trouvera bien 
sûr tous les renseignements utiles pour 
futurs auteurs et abonnés. Mais nous 
avons également l'intention de fournir 
une liste de tous les textes publiés depuis 
notre début il y a trente-cinq ans envi- 
ron, ainsi que des liens à d'autres sites 
dans nos champs de travail et les an- 
nonces reçues (colloques, appels de 
communications, etc.). Il serait un peu 
prématuré de publier dès à présent notre 
adresse électronique, mais nous espé- 
rons que ce site ne sera plus "en voie de 
développement" lorsque notre prochain 
numéro paraîtra. 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 2 (1999) /3 



'To Depart from the Earth 

with Such Writing": 

Johannes Kepler's Dream of 

Reading Knowledge 



ELIZABETH 
A. SPILLER 



Résumé: Johannes Kepler peut être compris comme représentant du conflit entre 
l'observation et la lecture qui a défini les théories de la connaissance à la 
Renaissance. Le constat de nouvelles connaissances est devenu difficile dans la 
mesure où la lecture et l'observation, actes de voir qui promettaient de nouvelles 
façons de savoir, s'avéraient concurrentielles l'une avec l'autre. Dans son 
Somnium f Songe j, Kepler théorise un intérêt pour la lecture très typique de 
l'époque. Les questions concernant la lecture et l'observation qui prêtent une 
structure aux oeuvres de Kepler plus strictement scientifiques deviennent le sujet 
du récit du Songe. Tout comme Kepler se sert de la fiction du SongQpour illustrer 
un système universel qui marginalise l'homme physiquement et marque les 
limites de la connaissance humaine, il projette aussi un monde et un lieu au delà 
de ces limites. 



Campanella wrote a City of the Sun. What about my writing a "City of the Moon"? Would 
it not be excellent to describe the cyclopic mores of our time in vivid colors, but in doing 
so — to be on the safe side — to depart from the earth with such writing and secede to 
the moon? However, what would such a flight be good for? More in his Utopia and 
Erasmus in his Praise of Folly ran into trouble and had to defend themselves. Therefore 
let us leave the vicissitudes of politics alone and let us remain in the pleasant, fresh green 
fields of philosophy. (Johannes Kepler ) 

If I had ascended the very heaven and beheld completely the nature of the universe, and 
the beauty of the stars, the wonder of it would give me no pleasure, if I did not have you 
as a friendly reader to tell it to. (Johannes Kepler, citing Cicero, De amicitia^) 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 2 (1999) 15 



6 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



In a 1 623 letter to Matthias Bemegger, Johannes Kepler evokes the larger 
political turmoil of early seventeenth-century Europe when he describes 
his decision to write and revise his lunar astronomy in fictional form. Initially 
a set of theoretical propositions about the moon compiled by Kepler as a 
university student, the Dream was a work that Kepler revised many times 
before it was finally published after his death in 1634.^ The first fictional 
work to see the earth from a specifically Copemican perspective, Kepler's 
sometimes curious and often compelling narrative contains a truly "vivid" 
description of how the earth would appear when seen from the perspective 
of the moon. This alternative view of earth is then set inside an elaborate 
fairy-tale frame, which was annotated, over a period of about ten years, with 
hundreds of footnotes."* Most readers have identified the Dream as a Utopia; 
indeed, Kepler's appraisal of his possible literary models in his letter to 
Bemegger is in keeping with claims made by recent critics of the Utopia. In 
his now classic study. Utopies^ Louis Marin argues that Utopias must be 
understood less as a verbal description or representation of some "idea" 
about what society should be like than as a verbal act that is inherently also 
a political statement.^ Elaborating on Marin's conception of the Utopia as a 
"discursive practice," Fredric Jameson has argued that Utopias are structured 
to put conflicting possibilities in relation to one another as a way of textually 
working out otherwise unresolvable cultural problems.^ Marina Leslie's 
recent reassessment likewise begins with the proposition that Utopias are 
neither "straightforward social blueprint" nor fixed literary genre; they are 
instead "a complex textual practice enmeshed in a web of historical contin- 
gencies."^ While these accounts of Utopia as a writing praxis have been 
powerful, Kepler himself encourages us to understand his Dream in other 
terms. Unlike More, who makes us consider the writing of the Utopia as a 
way of doing, Kepler's Dream gives us a way of reading as knowing. 

In an influential account of the development of modem philosophy, 
Richard Rorty has argued that in the seventeenth century "perceptual meta- 
phors" became the dominant figure for knowledge.^ Although Plato and 
Aristotle would have agreed in finding "absurd" the idea of "basing know- 
ledge on appearances," the early modem period made apprehension the 
foundation for comprehension.^ While Rorty is interested in showing how 
metaphors of sight as knowledge helped to redefine philosophy, confirma- 
tion for his claims can be found in the way that the act of seeing was itself 
being redefined by early modem science. The question of how one might 
"apprehend" something became increasingly difficult to answer as reading 



Elizabeth A. Spiller / "To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 7 



and observation — acts of seeing that promised to provide ways of knowing 
— competed with each other. While early modem scientific writers some- 
times dismiss the traditional citing of textual authorities in favor of their own 
work, Anthony Grafton demonstrates how reading nonetheless remained 
"the model" for "all complex forms of leaming."*^The citing of "authorities" 
produced texts that were in some sense a series of readings of earlier works. 
Observations, by contrast, relied not just on potentially fallible individuals 
but increasingly on technologies such as the telescope or the pinhole camera, 
which augmented vision by distorting it. If traditional philology seemed to 
have no way to get out of the potentially infinite regress of reading, obser- 
vational practice had no method for transforming its knowledge into texts. 

Johannes Kepler can be understood as a figure for the conflict between 
observation and reading that has come to define modem theories of know- 
ledge. J. V. Field has thus demonstrated how Kepler's emphasis on reading 
has made subsequent attempts to understand his work difficult. Not only do 
Kepler's commentaries on his own work reread classical authorities, but they 
also recast his earlier writings. ^^ Grafton points out that Kepler's work as a 
whole illustrates in this context "how much the act of reading meant to 
him." ^2 In the Dream Kepler theorizes this interest in reading, which Grafton 
identifies as being characteristic of the early modem period as a whole. The 
questions about reading and observing that stmcture Kepler's more strictly 
scientific works become the narrative subject of the Dream. Kepler keeps 
retuming to this comparatively insignificant text — revising, restmcturing, 
explaining, adding notes and then notes to those notes — because doing so 
enables him to think through in narrative form the scientific practices that 
underlie his other works. 

Kepler's Dream follows the convention of earlier Utopias in using an 
elaborate frame narrative to introduce his selenography. In most Utopias the 
frame separates the reader from the ideal world being imagined and thus 
becomes both a point of entry to an imagined ideal and a barrier ever to 
realizing that ideal. Reading may in some sense take us from the impossible 
to the ideal through an imaginative self-projection.*^ In Kepler's case, the 
materials which surround his narrative — the frame, footnotes, and a 
companion volume translation of Plutarch — become a meditation on the 
act of reading in which we are engaged. Intervening between us and the 
central text, these materials depict reading as an act of seeing that sometimes 
confirms but more often conflicts with the kinds of observations produced 
by the telescope. Making the methods and technologies of the "New Astron- 



8 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



omy" a key part of the reader's experience of the text, Kepler thus shows 
how emphasis on observation transforms reading into a contested practice 
in the early modem period. As a Utopian fiction, the Dream explores the 
conflict between reading and experience associated with the telescope as a 
new way of seeing. ^"^ The complex structure of Kepler's Dream thus 
becomes in a critical sense a narrative realization of the act of reading. 
Following Cicero in emphasizing how he would re-create for his readers the 
"wonder" and "beauty" in his knowledge of the heavens, Kepler gives us a 
Dream in which reading is not so much the way to a Utopian ideal as it is that 
ideal. 

Kepler's dramatization of this point of view derives from the fact that 
he never truly doubted the Copemican hypothesis of a heliocentric universe; 
hence, Kepler did not conceive of the Dream as "proof of Copernicus. 
Rather, the Dream is an argument for the Copemican hypothesis that nostal- 
gically projects a Utopian world in which seeing and knowing were joined 
as they apparently had been in the pre-Copemican world. Despite the fact 
that Kepler claimed that the purpose of the Dream was "to use the example 
of the moon, to build up an argument in favor of the motion of the earth" (p. 
36), this work was of comparatively little scientific importance. Critical 
discussions of the Dream have generally separated Kepler's presentation of 
his scientific ideas at the center of the text from the complex textual 
apparatus that surrounds it. Kepler's readers have thus emphasized the 
scientific accuracy of his representation of what the earth would look like 
without fully recognizing how, even in the most apparently scientific sec- 
tions of this work, Kepler is also indulging in a fantasy world in which 
mediation and distortion would not interfere with what we see and know.^^ 
Understood in this context, Kepler's fantasy about unproblematic knowledge 
works to solve the challenges set out in the frame narrative. 

Kepler seeks this solution not only as a scientist but as a reader. As has 
often been observed, the final form of the Dream stands in some sense as a 
correction to misreadings of earlier versions of the text that Kepler believed 
had led to witchcraft charges being brought against his mother. ^^ After what 
originally seems to have begun as a business dispute with a neighbor, 
Katharina Kepler was accused, imprisoned, and threatened with torture as a 
witch before finally being released in 1621 , almost six years later. '^ Although 
Kepler recognized that the neighbor, Ursula Reinbold, herself acted against 
his mother out of personal animosity, he also believed that erroneous read- 
ings of an early version of the Dream had made Reinbold's charges credible 



Elizabeth A. Spiller / "To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 9 



to others who became involved. For a copy of the 1609 manuscript, given 
by Kepler to Baron von Volkersdork, had circulated privately, making its 
way, according to Kepler, from Prague to Leipzig, Tubingen, and ultimately 
Wurttemberg. There Kepler's story about the herb seller Fiolxhilde, who 
called "daemon" creatures down from the skies, produced "chatter" and 
"malicious gossip" in the barbershops throughout the city (p. 40, n. 8). Part 
of the problem with Kepler's manuscript was clearly a conflict over reading 
practices. Where Kepler, sensitive to language of light and dark throughout 
his Dream selenography, understood allegory as a way of revealing scientific 
truths under cover, as it were, the barbershop readers interpreted Kepler's 
fiction simply as a dark story: "those words fell upon minds which were dark 
within and suspected everything of being dark" (p. 39, n. 8). 

Looking back on the misconstruings that produced such difficulties for 
his mother, Kepler understands not just the publication but the revised form 
of the Dream as a way to "avenge this dream of mine" in "another punish- 
ment for my adversaries" (pp. 40-41, n. 8). While Kepler does refer in 
passing to what he takes to be misconceptions about the nature of witchcraft 
on the part of tribunals like the one that tried his mother, his primary focus 
in the notes is on the kinds of bad reading that led to the charges against 
her.^^ Kepler's elaborate, and ever increasing, footnotes initially provide a 
corrected reading of the allegory of the Dream. While offering a model for 
a better kind of reading, Kepler's notes also impose an interpretation that 
preempts further, potentially erroneous readings by others. Recognizing that 
reading can be not just a means to knowledge but also a way to the kinds of 
dangerous errors that led to Katharina Kepler's persecution is a key topic of 
the Dream. In the opening sentences of the revised Dream, Kepler introduces 
the subject matter that led to the witchcraft charges: 

My name is Duracotus My mother is Fiolxhilde. Her recent death freed me to write, 

as I had long wished to do. While she lived, she carefully kept me from writing. For, she 
said, the arts are loathed by many vicious people who mahgn what their dull minds fail 
to understand, and make laws harmful to mankind. Condemned by these laws, not a few 
persons have perished in the chasms of Hekla. (pp. 1 1-12) 

The illiteracy of Kepler's own mother may have contributed the basis 
for the fictional Fiolxhilde's assertions that the "vicious" and "dull" will 
misread those things which they do not understand. In Kepler's annotations 
to the text, however, this first mention of the witch-mother Fiolxhilde 
critically becomes an allegory about reading and its relationship to the 
pursuit of truth. Kepler thus glosses this previously controversial passage 



10 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



with the "further suggestion" that in Fiolxhilde we see the "mother, Igno- 
rance" who forbids her son "Science" to "reveal to the public the deeply 
hidden causes of things" (p. 36, n. 4). Kepler almost certainly must have 
wished for his mother's sake that he had heeded advice like Fiolxhilde's. At 
the same time, he also recognizes that, whatever the awful consequences 
were of circulating that early version of the Dream, it is precisely the 
reluctance to see the truth that allows ignorance and suspicion to flourish. 
Far from exonerating his mother from witchcraft charges, Kepler suggests 
that his witch Fiolxhilde is a figure for the symbolic illiteracy that leads to 
terror and suspicion rather than truth. 

Kepler's desire to make amends to his mother through a more truthful 
kind of reading can be seen in his invocation of Christopher Besold as a 
reader of the revised Dream. The second of the 223 notes addresses Besold 
directly: 

I have a very old document which you, most illustrious Christopher Besold, wrote with 
your own hand, when, in the year 1 593, on the basis of my essays, you formulated about 
twenty theses concerning the celestial phenomena on the moon and showed them to Veit 
Millier, who then regularly presided over the philosophical disputations, with the thought 
that you would engage in a debate over them if he approved, (p. 32, n, 2) 

Resold appears here at the beginning of the text as a way of remembering 
that he was in some sense the first reader of what became Kepler's Dream. 
As Kepler indicates, he and Besold were students at the University of 
Tubingen together. When Kepler under Michael Maestlin's influence first 
drew up propositions that used the example of the moon to demonstrate 
various Copemican ideas, Besold was one of the friends with whom Kepler 
shared his work. For Kepler, the notes that Besold subsequently wrote for a 
school rhetoric exercise constitute the first "reading" of his work. 

As the originary reader, Besold is also Kepler's ideal reader, the kind 
of reader to whom Kepler implicitly addressed texts such as The Mystery of 
the Universe (1596, 1621), The New Astronomy (1609), and The Harmony 
of the World {\6\9). As Kepler suggests in a 1623 letter to Matthias Bemeg- 
ger, his Dream was originally intended not simply as a "proof" of the 
movement of the moon, an epitome of Copemican ideas. Rather, it was 
written as a compendium of different intellectual problems, directed at 
different kinds of readers: 

I have started to work again on the astronomy of the moon, or rather to elucidate it by 
remarks. . . . there are just as many problems as lines in my writing, which can only be 
solved astronomically, physically, or historically. But what can one do about this? How 



Elizabeth A. Spiller / 'To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 1 1 



few people will attempt to solve them? The people wish that this kind of fun, as they 
say, would throw itself around their necks with cosy arms; in playing they do not want 
to wrinkle their foreheads. Therefore, I decided to solve the problems myself, in notes, 
ordered and numbered. 

Besold is, in this context, a true reader of Kepler's work: he transformed 
Kepler's original propositions in his "hand- written" notes into the basis for 
a disputation that itself offered a way of solving problems and learning the 
truth. Yet, if Besold appears as the first true reader of Kepler's Dream, the 
allusion to him also reminds us that Besold read the ultimate and 
unanticipated consequences of that school exercise. A law student when 
Kepler first met him, Besold subsequently became a member of the law 
faculty at the university. As one of the jurists to whom Katharina Kepler's 
witchcraft trial was eventually referred for a decision, Besold almost cer- 
tainly read the 128-page defense that Kepler wrote for his mother. ^^ It was 
the decision of this faculty that finally, after six years, resulted in the charges 
against Katharina Kepler being dismissed. In this context, Besold represents 
both the first and the last reader of that earlier, mistaken version of the 
Dream. 

Yet, if Kepler's revisions and annotations to the Dream begin through 
Kepler's desire to correct the misinterpretations that led to witchcraft 
charges, Kepler's recasting of his work more critically becomes part of a 
larger attempt to develop a theory that reflected upon the reading practices 
informing his scientific work. While Kepler is best known for his use of 
observational data to construct new star charts and tables, it was of course 
Tycho Brahe, not Kepler, who did the observing. As a scientific observer, 
therefore, Kepler in some sense begins as a reader. At the most basic level, 
Kepler's notoriously bad eyesight and the difficulty he had in obtaining 
reliable telescopes ensured that his practice of astronomy was not defined in 
strictly observational terms. As Grafton points out in this context, Kepler 
relied on written descriptions from other astronomers to provide a visual aid 
for his observational work. He accordingly uses Girolamo Cardano's "crisp, 
well-chosen adjectives to compensate for weakness of his own eyesight . . . 
[in seeing] what a comet's tail actually looked like."^' 

In contrast to the scientific texts which Steven Shapin and Simon 
Schaffer have described as transforming early modern readers into vicarious 
observers, readers of the Dream are not observers.^^ Kepler initially uses a 
fictional form precisely because he wants to describe something that no one 
— no matter how good the telescope — could see from earth. Kepler's 



12 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Dream becomes a dream about reading and observation. One day, after 
reading about the legendary history of Bohemia, the narrator falls asleep and 
dreams that he is reading another book about a man named Duracotus. A 
fictional version of Kepler, Duracotus is able to learn about the moon and 
stars through the discoveries and revelations of a daemon, who shows him 
a vision of Levania (the moon) that comprises the central part of the text. If 
Kepler is reading at the outset of the narrative, he is also involved in 
"watching the stars and the moon" (p. 11). Yet, even as Kepler invokes these 
two methods of acquiring astronomical knowledge, he rejects them as 
insufficient, since it is through a dream that he has his vision. His dream in 
turn replicates the potential conflicts between these acts of observation and 
reading. In dreaming that he is reading yet another book — one obtained at 
the Frankfurt book fair — Kepler reminds his readers that this book fair was 
the best source for new scientific books that were innovative, controversial, 
or even censored.^^ Yet, at the same time, this dream about reading is itself 
presented as a form of astronomical observation: the dream begins with the 
drowsiness brought on by a late night watching stars and ends with a storm 
that would have made astronomical observations as well as astronomical 
dreams impossible (p. 11). 

Like Kepler's narrative, Duracotus is also associated with the different 
forms of reading and observation that define contemporary scientific prac- 
tice. Duracotus learns not just Danish but modem methods of science when 
he studies with the astronomer Tycho Brahe at his observatory complex on 
the island of Hven. Although Kepler never had the opportunity to see the real 
Uraniborg, his depiction of it in the Dream represents an imaginative and 
intellectual response to the almost mythological iconography surrounding 
Brahe's famous and, by the time Kepler came to work with Brahe, lost 
astronomical castle. As Brahe' s detailed description of Uraniborg in the 
Astronomiae instaurae mechanica (1598) makes clear, Brahe built on Hven 
what he understood to be an architectural expression of precisely the cosmic 
order that he hoped Uraniborg would enable him to observe, discover, and 
record.^"* He consequently placed considerable emphasis on the remarkable 
and expensive instruments that he had made for watching the skies: a large 
armillary, the great globe inscribed with more than a thousand star positions, 
and his famous mural quadrant, constructed of solid brass, with a two-meter 
radius, and permanently affixed to a north-south wall of the castle, among 
others. Contemporary detractors such as Andreas Libavius, by contrast, 
suggested that what Brahe understood to be unprecedentedly rigorous obser- 



Elizabeth A. Spiller/ 'To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 13 



vation rather involved indulging in an outmoded life of contemplation that 
contributed little to civic society.^^ If Uraniborg became a symbol in debate 
over the shift from a philosophy based on the vita contemplativa to the vita 
activa in the ways that Owen Hannaway suggests,^^ Kepler understood the 
observational activity of Uraniborg as part of a different debate. 

Drawing on the representation circulated by Brahe of his observatory 
and its splendid instruments, Kepler in the Dream depicts the Uraniborg that 
Duracotus visits as a place that critically combines modem observational 
techniques with modern reading practices. Following both Brahe's lead in 
the Astronomiae instaurae mechanica and his own personal interest in 
Brahe's work, Kepler certainly emphasizes the importance of tools and 
observations. As Kepler knew from having worked with Brahe at Benetky 
and in Prague, instruments like the great sphere and armillary made it 
possible to develop what Kepler praises as the "highly precise method of 
observation" with which Brahe "fought against the very nature of human 
vision and emerged victorious" (p. 47, n. 25).^^ Yet studies at Uraniborg also 
depended on reading as much as observation: Brahe had an extensive library 
containing more than two hundred scientific works, a paper mill, and a 
private printing press, which enabled him to avoid many of difficulties that 
Kepler faced in getting his works into print.^^ Kepler's Duracotus as a result 
learns both by using new observational tools and by reading books: "things 
which you saw with your own eyes or learned by hearsay or absorbed from 
books" (p. 14). Uraniborg appears in the frame narrative to the Dream, that 
is, as the best attempt to integrate reading and observation as the two 
dominant contemporary means of acquiring scientific knowledge. While 
some readers have described Brahe's Uraniborg as a realization of a Utopian 
scientific practice, Kepler ultimately looks back on this island haven, not 
merely as a dream that was lost, but, more importantly, as one that could 
never be fully achieved in this world.^^ Despite his training, Duracotus does 
not acquire his "new knowledge" of the moon through the methods taught 
at Uraniborg but through a vision from his otherworldly daemon. The 
purpose of Kepler's elaborate frame narrative, then, is to portray the acts of 
reading and observation pursued at Uraniborg as important but finally never 
adequate means of acquiring knowledge. 

If the frame narrative introduces the conflict between reading and 
observation in producing knowledge, the footnotes provide a more extended 
commentary on these practices. Situating Kepler's work within the historical 
development of an "analytico-referential" discourse, Timothy Reiss con- 



14 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



eludes that "it is almost as though the Dream text posed a constant problem 
that Kepler eventually sought to elucidate in his notes by the use of an 
analytical tool developed elsewhere."^^ Although Reiss is speaking in more 
general terms, the truth of his argument can be seen by comparing the Dream 
to Kepler's earlier Secret of the Universe. Understanding Kepler's annota- 
tion of the Dream requires recognizing how this work provides a kind of 
textual conclusion to Kepler's Secret. Looking back on his work in 1621, 
Kepler argued that all of his subsequent writing had developed as "an 
illustration or a completion" of his first book, The Secret of the Universe. ^^ 
Yet while Kepler's cosmological "discovery" of the shapes of the planetary 
spheres contained ideas that continued to be a key part of later works. The 
Secret of the Universe anticipates the Dream less in its intellectual content 
than in sketching out how Kepler in the Dream connects his reading practices 
to his astronomical work. 

Like the Dream, The Secret of the Universe was a continuing preoccu- 
pation of Kepler's. Regarding this 1596 treatise as the most significant of 
his works, Kepler issued a second edition in 162L While noting that most 
writers would rewrite and revise, Kepler instead decided after twenty-five 
years to reprint the original text, but, as he said, "partly emended, partly 
explained, and partly confirmed by most remarkable notes."^^ Expressing 
the distance between the planets as a "Marvelous Proportion," Kepler's 
Secret used the five Platonic solids (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodeca- 
hedron, and icosahedron), successively inscribed within the spheres of the 
planets, to explain the construction of the universe.^^ Kepler's subsequent 
notes both confirm and correct his continuing interest in this theory. Evalu- 
ating the 1621 edition, historians have understandably been interested in 
following Kepler's textual annotations as a guide to the development of his 
intellectual thought.^"^ Kepler, however, uses the footnotes not just to define 
his relationship to the ideas of the first edition but, at the same time, to assert 
his relationship to the text itself. Kepler draws attention to this aspect of the 
notes when he provides an account in the 1621 preface of his decision not 
to revise the text more fully. Kepler explains that he chose "the form of 
edition which is usually adopted in reprinting other people's books" because 
the original edition had been so widely read that it "should not be thought of 
as my own, to alter or enlarge at will."^^ Finding that the existence of other 
readers has in some critical way changed his relationship to his work, Kepler 
returns to his text as a reader rather than as a writer. In this context, Kepler's 



Elizabeth A. Spiller / 'To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 15 



footnotes give him a way to mark the importance that he attaches to the act 
of reading. 

In the Dream, Kepler continues this practice of annotating his work with 
a degree of self-consciousness that demonstrates how the Dream is con- 
cerned less with what Kepler does than with what he thinks. These notes 
invoke a wide range of readers, both actual and implied: particular individ- 
uals, readers of earlier works, spectators who had witnessed specific astro- 
nomical observations. In this respect, the notes reflect Kepler's 
understanding of the Dream as an encoded text comparable to Galileo's 
famous astronomical anagrams: the text was full of problems, each to be 
"solved" by different kinds of readers. While in part reflecting the failure of 
earlier drafts of this text to attract the ideal readers for whom Kepler intended 
his cryptic text, the footnotes more significantly become a reflection on the 
range of Kepler's reading practices. When Kepler explains the illegitimacy 
of Duracotus, he thus reads his Dream as a kind of medieval allegory in 
which the "Mother of Science" is Ignorance, the father Reason, who "is quite 
properly either not known by that mother or concealed by her" (p. 43, n. 10). 
Kepler relies on numerology to explicate parts of the text ("the Latin words 
for 'Copemican Astronomy' contain this very number of letters or charac- 
ters" [p. 51, n. 38]); astrological patterns explain other details (p. 55, n. 43). 
Kepler demonstrates familiarity with the reading strategies of humanist 
philology when he provides etymological derivations for his terms: his name 
for the Levanians, for instance, prompts a commentary on the Hebrew 
''Lehhanar Greek ''Selene, from selas'' and Etruscan ''Luna (derived, I 
think, from the Carthaginian)" (p. 78, nn. 89, 90). At still other moments, 
Kepler offers geometric proof and rhetorical exposition; he refers readers to 
other scholarly literature, as well as to specific observational experiences. 

In this context, Kepler's notes to the text problematize any relationship 
between reading and observing. When he discusses the origin of the Dream, 
Kepler insists that his work precedes observational studies conducted by 
others, as well as his own reading in classical sources. In keeping with this 
argument, Kepler describes the intellectual affiliation he sees between his 
writing on the moon and that in Lucian's A True Story and Plutarch's On the 
Face Which Appears in the Orb of the Moon?^ Kepler remembers the way 
in which Erasmus Reinhold's commentaries led him to Plutarch and how he 
found a copy of Lucian at a Prague bookseller's in 1604 (pp. 30-35, n.2). 
These details provide a history of reading in classical sources that would 
seem implicitly to authorize Kepler to write on this topic. They offer a 



1 6 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



philological annotation comparable to Kepler's decision to append his own 
Latin translations of these two texts to the Dream}^ Yet, even as Kepler 
presents himself as an expert reader — one able to translate classical texts 
into his own language and intellectual situation — he also asserts that the 
Dream supersedes such scholarly reading. Kepler thus paradoxically con- 
cludes by noting that he was "exceedingly amazed" that his ideas corre- 
sponded so closely with Plutarch's "because they did not all come to me from 
reading this book" (p. 32, n. 2). 

If Plutarch and Lucian are logical sources for any study of the moon 
that depends on a text-based humanism, Galileo is correspondingly promi- 
nent in an observationally-oriented astronomy of the seventeenth century. It 
is not surprising, then, that Kepler directs attention to the new methods of 
observation that the telescope made possible for Galileo but then asserts, 
here again, that it was not the telescope that gave him the knowledge 
contained in his Dream. Kepler contends, for example, that the moon has 
both high mountains and extensive valleys (p. 27). Galileo had begun his 
Sidereus nuncius (1 610) by asserting that the moon is not smooth, but "rough 
and uneven . . . crowded everywhere with vast prominences, deep chasms, 
and convolutions."^^ This provocative introduction became particularly 
widely known because, while Galileo's other claims proved notably difficult 
to confirm, the new surface of the moon was comparatively easy to see "with 
the certainty of the senses. "^^ Mentioning neither Galileo nor his Sidereus 
nuncius, Kepler tersely notes that his own arguments about the nature of the 
moon are "older than the Dutch telescope" (p. 125, n. 207). Even as he makes 
these assertions, Kepler's text elsewhere gives other, conflicting accounts 
for the sources of these ideas."*^ To point out these tensions in the text is not 
to attribute to Kepler a form of professional jealousy analogous to Galileo's. 
Rather, what Kepler struggles with in notes like these is the relationship 
between apprehending and comprehending. His notes reproduce the subject 
of the Dream in suggesting that true knowledge is a kind of Utopia that 
exceeds both reading and observation as necessarily limited acts of seeing. 

In Kepler's text, the movement to the moon involves a transition from 
the "fiction" of the frame narrative to the displaced scientific "truth" of the 
central narrative. Following a tradition familiar from More's Utopia, Kepler 
imagines a difficult passage to the center of the text: leaving Iceland for 
knowledge of the moon, Fiolxhilde invokes the daemon spirit through 
"ceremonies" in which the travellers utter incantations and cover their heads 
with their clothing (p. 14). Kepler glosses this liminal moment in the text 



Elizabeth A. Spiller/ 'To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 17 



with a long note about a similar "ceremony" that he used when conducting 
his observations in Prague. When visitors came to see his observations, he 
introduced them to his work by a secret demonstration: 

I cut out the daylight . . . and hung a white sheet on the wall In capital letters I wrote 

with chalk on a black board what I thought suited the spectators. The shape of the letters 
was backwards (behold the magical rite), as Hebrew is written. I hung this board with 
the letters upside down in the open air outside in the sunshine. As a result, what I had 
written was projected right side up on the white wall within, (p. 57, nn. 44, 46, 47) 

In her analysis of Kepler's optical treatises, Svetlana Alpers has shown how 
Kepler's interest in the pinhole camera was part of a new visual culture that 
came to dominate Northern Europe. Kepler no doubt creates this mysterious 
demonstration with his room-sized pinhole camera to display his mastery 
over the elements of light."* ^ As Alpers concludes, Kepler attributes "the 
enigma of the astronomical observations to the deception of vision.'"*^ In the 
context of the Dream, however, this story provides not simply an optics 
demonstration but, more specifically, a consideration of how reading and 
observing intersect as acts of seeing. Kepler's "demonstration" transforms 
what begins as a "certain act of observation" into a form of reading. Looking 
through the pinhole camera inverts the cryptic images and so literally 
translates what seems as foreign as Hebrew into a legible script written for 
the watching audience. Kepler introduces this account of the "reading" of 
these observations at this point in the Dream as a way of structuring the 
"translation" of his readers to the moon. 

Whereas the notes and frame narrative identify a conflict between 
observation and reading as the key problem of modem knowledge, the Utopia 
at the heart of Kepler's narrative imagines a world that reconciles this 
conflict through its physical reality. The utopie central section inverts the 
normal situation, in which we make claims about the earth based on our 
observations of the moon. Kepler asks us instead to imagine being on the 
moon while looking back at the earth. As the work of Alexander Koyré and 
others has long made clear, Kepler's adherence to a comparatively traditional 
cosmography is signaled by his refusal to consider seriously the possibility 
of an infinite universe."*^ An important corollary to Kepler's adherence to the 
idea of a finite universe is that Kepler does not anticipate the modem 
recognition that in astronomy there is no privileged observer, no "determi- 
nate places.'"^ Man may not be at the center of the universe, but for Kepler 
he nonetheless remains central to it. As Kepler explains in The Secret of the 
Universe, "From the love of God for Man a great many causes of the features 



1 8 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



of the universe can be deduced. . . . For the end of both the universe and the 
whole creation is Man."'*^ Yet, at the same time, Kepler is also able to imagine 
seeing the "whole creation" from other vantage points in the cosmos. 

Imaginatively augmenting the limitations of human knowledge, such 
vantage points become a productive fictional proposition for Kepler. In The 
Secret of the Universe, for instance, Kepler responds to dispute about the 
thickness of the spheres by suggesting that a physicist cannot answer this 
question unless "the test of observation and the agreement of the hypotheses 
has transported him out to the actual sky and between the spheres.'"*^ What 
is in this case a rhetorical gesture becomes in The New Astronomy a method 
for determining the orbit of Mars. As a number of readers have recognized, 
Kepler's discovery of the orbit of Mars depended on rethinking the subject 
from, literally, a new perspective: having "transposed his eyes" to a position 
in Mars*s orbit enables Kepler to solve a notoriously difficult astronomical 
problem."^^ The basic fictional premise of the Dream — imagining how the 
earth and by extension "the whole creation" would appear from the moon 
— is thus anticipated by Kepler's more serious astronomical work. 

While in The Secret of the Universe and The New Astronomy these 
tentative and hypothetical "displacements" of man become a way of produc- 
ing new knowledge, the Dream in some sense alters our physical and 
cognitive perspective in order to create fictions. In making this claim, I am 
not suggesting that what separates Kepler's Dream from his more truly and 
truthfully "scientific" works comes down to a distinction between fact and 
fiction. Following Marjorie Hope Nicolson, readers of the Dream have 
emphasized how after the "fantasy" of the frame narrative, the central 
description of the moon is almost strictly "scientific": however curious the 
form, what Kepler has written seems to be "an astronomical treatise. "^^ Yet 
Kepler also encourages us to recognize that the primary purpose of the 
Dream is not to tell truths, convey scientific facts, or discover new knowl- 
edge. Rather, the Dream is about transforming what we have always under- 
stood to be truth into fiction. 

Kepler's references in The Secret of the Universe to philosophers being 
"transported" out to the celestial spheres ironically recalls the resistance that 
men such as Cesare Cremonini, Christopher Clavius, and Guilio Libri had 
to the telescope. Frustrated at those who refused even to look through the 
telescope, Galileo famously turned jokes about the telescope back against 
his adversaries: when Libri, for instance, died without ever having looked 
through the telescope, Galileo mockingly expressed the hope that Libri 



eizabeth A. Spiller / *To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 19 



would now have a chance to see the Medicean stars on his way to heaven."^^ 
Kepler responds to these attacks on the telescope in a somewhat different 
fashion: the kind of joke that Galileo's opponents use to dismiss the telescope 
becomes in Kepler the narrative premise of the Dream. Kepler comments on 
Fiolxhilde's conversations with daemons by remarking, "There is a popular 
joke: Til believe it rather than go into the matter personally'" (pp. 14 and 
53, n. 41). Recognizing how Galileo's observations alter theories about the 
presence of water on the moon, Kepler suggests, "Let us believe this for the 
time being until some explorer goes into the matter in person" (p. 124, n. 
202). To correct an earlier claim, Kepler comments, "See how anxiously I 
worry about correcting my statements lest some recent observer of these 
phenomena come down from the moon and prove me wrong" (p. 118, n. 
188). When Libri dismissed Galileo and the telescope, he implicitly asserted 
that these new "observations" were nothing more than fictions. ^^ Kepler in 
the Dream makes his readers take the imaginative trip that Libri refused to 
consider. Yet he does not do so to confirm the truth of Galileo's observations 
or even Copernicus 's theories. Instead, in what Kepler identifies as "the 
thesis of this book," the Dream demonstrates that what we had always relied 
on as the truth was only a fiction: 

what are for us among the main features of the entire universe: the twelve celestial signs, 
solstices, equinoxes, tropical years, sidereal years, equator, colures, tropics, arctic 
circles, and celestial poles, are all restricted to the very tiny terrestrial globe, and exist 
only in the imagination of the earth dwellers. Hence, if we transfer the imagination to 
another sphere, everything must be understood in an altered form. (p. 85, n. 105; 
emphasis added) 

Responding to the way in which science changed man's knowledge of the 
universe, Kepler would also have us alter our imaginations. Kepler 
ultimately uses this strategy of making us see the world differently to return 
to what is, in important ways, a more traditional understanding of man's 
place in the universe. 

Eloquently describing the cognitive shift that Kepler confronts, Max 
Caspar describes the new intellectual vantage point that Copemican astron- 
omy brought: 

Formerly the desire had been to comprehend nature from within, or, if you like, from 
above as a whole. . . . Now men's eyes were turned to the fullness of the facts. ... If 
man had previously looked down, as it were from the other world upon the earth and the 
whole material world, he now placed himself inside of things and looked from these up 
to the heaven." 



20 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



An appropriate illustration of the first of these attitudes can perhaps be 
seen in Peter Apian 's often reprinted cosmography handbook. The first page 
of the 1544 Cosmographie de Pierre Apian defines cosmography with an 
image of the sphere of the fixed stars. Although earlier editions of Apian's 
handbook illustrated cosmography with the image of an "eye" looking up at 
the earth and the heavens around it, the 1544 edition inverted this illustration. 
By depicting a celestial "eye" looking down on the earth, Apian's frontis- 
piece makes explicit the philosophical assumptions inherent in the cosmog- 
raphy that Kepler inherited. As Caspar suggests, philosophers such as Apian 
understand cosmography as a form of study that symbolically comprehends 
the earth's position in the larger universe through what Caspar describes as 
a looking down "from above as a whole."^^ Familiar with the Cosmographie, 
Kepler elsewhere dismisses both Apian's scientific theory and practice as a 
"pathetic diligence" that labored to represent fictions of "that which exists 
only in the mind."^^ In the fictional world of the Dream, however, Kepler 
creates a selenography that looks back critically at cosmographies such as 
Apian's. Kepler's lunar astronomy invokes the telescope, not just as a new 
technology, but as a way of imaginatively recapturing the sense that earlier 
astronomers had of being able to look down upon the earth with knowledge 
and certainty. 

Recognizing that under a Copemican model man is not the measure of 
his universe, Kepler postulates a world where the Levanians are the measure 
of their universe. Kepler depicts the inhabitants of Levania as fantastically 
embodying the physical reality of their world. Having both a "monstrous 
size" and a "short life," the physical being of these creatures expresses the 
"proportion" of the astronomical circumstances of their world (p. 27). In so 
depicting them, Kepler also emphasizes how man is in important ways 
physically inadequate to apprehend other worlds. Kepler imagines how those 
who might attempt to investigate the world of Levania would risk the 
"greatest danger to life" to the point of being almost "torn to pieces" (pp. 15 
and 71, n. 68). If the realm of the moon remains critically unknowable to 
man, the Levanians need neither books nor telescopes to know their world. 
Unlike man, they possess a relationship to their physical environment that 
allows them direct and unmediated access to knowledge. Even as Kepler 
purports to be demonstrating the Copemican theory, he represents the 
Levanian world through a fundamentally pre-Copemican understanding of 
man. 



Elizabeth A. Spiller/ 'To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 21 



Kepler's Dream projects a world in which knowledge is based on direct 
observation in a way not physically possible on earth. ^"^ In trying to portray 
what the earth looks like from the moon, Kepler renames these celestial 
bodies to accord with the way this change in perspective also alters how they 
appear to observers. The moon that we see primarily as white becomes 
Levania ("lebhana," 'iuna/' "selene"), while the earth that they perceive as 
rotating is for them the Volva ("volvere") (p. 78, nn. 89, 90). The universe 
as they experience it is dominated by the Volva, which "remains fixed in 
place, then, as though it were attached to the heavens with a nail" (p. 22). 
Because the earth is four times the diameter of the moon, the Volva thus 
appears on their horizon fifteen times larger than the moon does on ours (p. 
21). For that part of Levania which faces towards the Volva, the view of the 
Volva provides "the most beautiful of all the sights" (ibid.); the hemisphere 
forever turned away from the Volva becomes a realm of complete "indigence 
and loneliness" (p. 107, n. 149).^^ The appearance of the Volva becomes 
important to the inhabitants of Levania as a source of knowledge as well as 
beauty. The constancy of the Volva means that this world has natural 
solutions to key epistemological problems confronted by early modem 
philosophers. Simply looking at the Volva — without books, calculations, 
or artificial observations — enables the Levanians to ascertain their "situa- 
tion" in the world with a confidence not possible on earth (p. 97, n. 132). By 
providing a means for determining longitude, telling time, and tracking the 
seasons, the Volva provides a physical sign within the Utopia of the truth that 
eluded the readers and observers of Kepler's world. 

The problem of longitude was one that Kepler's original readers would 
have understood as almost mythically unsolvable. Philosophers had of 
course long recognized that solving this problem depended on finding or 
establishing a reference point from which to observe the universe. Astrono- 
mers such as Philip Apian and Guillaume de Nautonier, for instance, tried to 
establish such a point within the planet itself by looking for regular declina- 
tion from the magnetic pole (pp. 98-101, n. 134).^^ Yet, as Kepler recog- 
nized, neither this answer nor others proposed ever went beyond "very 
laborious and uncertain method" (p. 98, n. 134). Whereas on earth "we have 
nothing but that most lowly and barely perceptible declination of the magnet" 
as a possible guide to finding longitude, the Levanians can chart longitude 
by referring to their positions relative to the Volva. The "barely perceptible" 
motions of the magnet on which astronomers depended are corrected on 
Levania by the motionlessness of the Volva. At central longitudes, the Volva 



22 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



appears high in the sky, visibly "brilliant" (p. 22); as one travels around 
Levania to outer longitudes, the Vol va becomes like "a mountain on fire far 
away" (p. 21). 

Kepler's Utopia likewise avoids contemporary difficulties associated 
with accurate time-keeping because the enormous size of Volva ensures that 
for the Levanians time is always known.^^ The Volva becomes an astrolog- 
ical clock, as its phases (new, first quarter, full, last quarter) mark the passage 
of the day from noon to morning light (p. 23). Determining the precise hour 
itself requires only an attention to the appearance of the Volva, since it 
displays "a wonderful variety of spots" as it turns (ibid.). The panoramic 
succession of images produced by the Volva becomes a kind of moving story 
in the sky: 

it looks like the front of the human head cut off at the shoulders [Africa] and leaning 
forward to kiss a young giri [Europe] in a long dress [Sarmatia, Black Sea regions], who 
stretches her hand back [Britain] to attract a leaping cat [Scandinavia], (pp. 24 and 1 14, 
nn. 158-62) 

In the world of human history that frames Kepler's Dream, Europe appears 
as a map of geopolitical "revolutions": thus it is the current uprising against 
Emperor Rudolph that leads Kepler's narrator to study the legendary revolt 
against the Bohemian ruler Libussa (p. 1 1). As Africa reaches out every hour 
to "kiss" Europe, the situation in Europe and adjacent regions appears quite 
different when seen from Levania. The political "revolutions" that Kepler 
alludes to at the start of his Dream have in Levania become a series of 
astronomical "revolutions" that produce constancy and stability by giving 
"the only uniform measure of time" (p. 23). 

If what we experience as the geopolitical inconstancy of our world 
becomes from the moon a pleasing display in the sky, Kepler also uses the 
Levanians to rethink our equally troubled apprehension of the skies. By 
imagining the Levanians watching the "wonderful variety" of spots in their 
sky, Kepler distinguishes how they see the universe from the way that 
contemporary observers on earth responded to different kinds of "variety" 
in the heavens. Mostly notably, Kepler here invokes reaction to Galileo's 
claims of having with the telescope seen "large spots" on the face of the 
moon and the surface of the sun.^^ Reports from Galileo and others of such 
"spots" transformed what had before been "pure," "smooth," and "unchang- 
ing" celestial bodies into objects as potentially transient as anything on earth. 
At the same time, "displays" created by new comets produced another type 
of uncertainty: Kepler, having twice published on this topic, certainly 



Elizabeth A. Spiller / 'To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 23 



remembered the fiery 1618 comet which "appeared as though an aristocratic 
young lady was driving along in a coach."^^ As viewed from earth, the 
panorama of the skies seemed to be a sign of uncertainty, indicating disturb- 
ing mutability in the heavens or predicting a catastrophic future on earth. 
"Wonderful" and "uniform," what the Volvans instead see is a story that 
reassuringly repeats itself every twenty-four hours: each new attempt by the 
man to kiss the girl marks another hour for them. Kepler's watching 
Levanians in some sense become their own internal clock because their 
position as observers makes them integral to the knowledge they produce. 
Requiring neither telescopes nor books to know their world, the Levanians 
enjoy the "measure" no longer possible in Kepler's post-Copemican astron- 
omy. 

Emphasizing how the knowledge of the Volva is apparent "to anyone 
who is observant," Kepler suppresses facts that do not support a radical 
connection between seeing and knowing (p. 24). Kepler avoids noting, for 
instance, that finding the latitude on Levania would be nearly as difficult as 
finding the longitude is on earth. He alludes to the latitude problem only to 
show how "convenient" the Volva is for determining longitude on Levania 
(p. 22). While the correlation between the earth's longitude and Levania's 
latitude is passed over here, Kepler elsewhere emphasizes the comparable 
connection between the earth's latitude and Levania's longitude. He does so 
because this connection can be assimilated into his argument concerning the 
visible knowledge of Levania. Kepler accordingly likens the Volva's pres- 
ence on the horizon to the altitudes of the pole, "even though we do not see 
the pole itself with our own eyes" (ibid.). The most logical terrestrial 
analogue to the Volva's "always visible" presence on the Levanian horizon 
would be the star Polaris at the North Pole. As a real and visible natural body, 
Polaris provides information about location on earth in much the same way 
that the Volva would on the moon. Instead of discussing the Pole star, 
however, Kepler's narrative emphasizes the Pole, an abstract (and invisible) 
concept. In making these narrative choices, Kepler thus reiterates that the 
Levanian world can be apprehended immediately and intuitively in ways that 
our world cannot. 

Knowledge, for the Levanians, is a physical consequence of their 
position in the universe. As Hans Blumenberg emphasizes, most astronom- 
ical discoveries after Galileo were a consequence of the advantages that 
resulted from man's eccentric position in the universe: what we on earth 
know is in large part attributable to the fact that, not being at the center, we 



24 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



can see at an angle.^^ Kepler uses his fiction to take advantage of a more 
extreme shift in perspective. While on earth we rely on the "laborious and 
uncertain" evidence provided by the sun and fixed stars, the Levanians look 
only to the Volva. Physically dominating their experience of the universe, 
the Volva provides beauty, knowledge, and constancy for them. That is, by 
imagining the experience that the Levanians have of our earth, Kepler has 
in some sense found a perspective from which we are indeed the measure of 
the universe. Even as Kepler uses his fiction to demonstrate the world system 
that physically moves man to the periphery, he allows the earth to be for the 
Levanians what it cannot be to us on earth. Recognizing the conflict in a 
desire to integrate traditional reading practices with new observational 
methods, Kepler imagines a world in which neither reading nor observation 
is necessary. In the end, Kepler's utopie Dream admits the physically 
necessary limitations to human knowledge in order to project a world and 
place without such limitations. 



Texas Christian University 



Notes 

1. Letter to Matthias Bemegger, 4 December 1623, in Carola Baumgardt, ed. and trans., 
Johannes Kepler: Life and Letters (New York: Philosophical Library, 1951), pp. 155-56. 

2. Johannes Kepler, "Original Preface to the Reader," in Mysterium Cosmographicum: The 
Secret of the Universe, trans. A. M. Duncan and ed. E. J. Alton, with a preface by L Bernard 
Cohen (New York: Abaris Books, 1981), p. 69. 

3. Kepler's son, Ludwig, ultimately published the book under the title loh. Keppleri; 
Mathematici olim Imperatori Somnium, seu Opus Posthumum de Astronomia Lunari. 
References throughout are to Johannes Kepler, Somnium: The Dream, or Posthumous Work 
on Lunar Astronomy, ed. and trans. Edward Rosen (Madison: University of Wisconsin 
Press, 1967); unless otherwise specified, references to note numbers indicate Kepler's own 
textual notes. 

4. On the textual history of the Dream, see Rosen, ed. and trans.. Introduction, pp. xvii-xxi. 

5. Louis Marin, Utopies: Spatial Play, trans. Robert A. Volrath (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: 
Humanities Press, 1984), pp. 33-60. 

6. Fredric Jameson, "Of Islands and Trenches: Neutralization and the Production of Utopian 
Discourse," in The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986, 2 vols. (Minneapolis: Univer- 
sity of Minnesota Press, 1988), 1: 75-101. 

7. Marina Leslie, Renaissance Utopias and the Problem of History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell 
University Press, 1998), p. 2. Leslie's model importantly recognizes and attempts to account 
for the almost perverse way that the Utopia is generically unstable because it internalizes its 



Elizabeth A. Spiller / 'To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 25 



commitment to reform; understood in this manner, Utopia is less a fixed genre than a writing 
practice that enacts a self-conscious need to rewrite earlier Utopias. 

8. Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University 
Press, 1979), p. 159. 

9. Ibid., p. 160. 

10. Anthony Grafton, "Kepler as a Reader," Journal of the History of Ideas 53 (1992): 565. 

11. J. V. Field, Kepler's Geometrical Cosmology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 
pp. 163-67, 172-76. 

12. Grafton, "Kepler as a Reader," pp. 565, 563. For two excellent accounts, from different 
perspectives, of the importance of reading as a practice in the development of early modem 
science, see Anthony Grafton, Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in an 
Age of Science, 7450-7500 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991),andWiUiam 
H. Sherman, John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance 
(Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995), pp. 29-52, 79-100. 

13. Louis Marin, "Toward a Semiotic of Utopia: Political and Fictional Discourse in Thomas 
More's Utopia" in Richard Harvey Brown and Stanford M. Lyman, eds.. Structure, 
Consciousness, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978), p. 266. 

14. For central arguments about the symbolic importance of the telescope in defining new 
models of knowledge, see Timothy J. Reiss, The Discourse of Modernism (Ithaca, NY: 
Cornell University Press, 1982), pp. 31-33, and Hans Blumenberg, The Genesis of the 
Copemican World, trans. Robert M. Wallace (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), pp. 
617-74. 

15. Marjorie Hope Nicolson, "Kepler, the Somnium, and John Donne," Journal of the History 
of Ideas 1 (1940): 216-11; Frank E. Manuel andFritzieP. Manuel, Utopian Thought in the 
Western WbrW (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979), p. 212; and Joseph Keith 
Lane, ed. and trans., ''The Dream, or Posthumous Work on Lunar Astronomy" (M.A. thesis, 
Columbia University, 1947), p. vii. 

1 6. See Nicolson, "Kepler," pp. 260-67; Arthur Koestler, The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man 's 
Changing Vision of the Universe (New York: Macmillan, 1959), p. 419; and John Lear, éd., 
Kepler's Dream, trans. Patricia Frueh Kirkwood (Berkeley: University of California Press, 
1965), pp. 17-18,21. 

17. Max Caspar, Kepler, trans, and ed. C. Doris Hellman (New York: Abelard-Schuman, 1959), 
pp. 240-58. 

1 8. When Kepler alludes to works such as Martin del Rio' s Investigation of Magic ( 1 599- 1 600), 
for instance, he presents himself as knowledgeable about key texts and controversies 
surrounding contemporary discussions of witchcraft (p. 50, n. 34). 

19. Letter to Matthias Bemegger, 4 December 1623, cited in Baumgardt, p. 155. 

20. Caspar, pp. 254-55. 

21. Grafton, "Kepler," p. 563. 

22. Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the 
Experimental Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), pp. 60-65. 



26 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



23. Kepler's Secret of the Universe, e.g., was listed for sale at the 1597 Frankfurt Book Fair 
(Caspar, p. 69). On the literary and intellectual culture that Kepler was a part of in 
Rudolphine Prague, see Anthony Grafton, "Humanism and Science in Rudolphine Prague: 
Kepler in Context," in James A. Parente, Jr., Richard Erich Schade, and George C. 
Schoolfield, eds.. Literary Culture in the Holy Roman Empire, 1555-1720 (Chapel Hill: 
University of North Carolina Press, 1991), pp. 19-45, and the definitive work of R. J. W. 
Evans, Rudolph 11 and His World: A Study in Intellectual History, 1576-1612 (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1973), pp. 243-74. 

24. Hans Raeder, Elis Strômgren, and Bengt Stromgren, trans., Tycho Brake's Description of 
his Instruments and Scientific Work (Copenhagen: Ejnar Munksgaard, 1946). On Brahe's 
years at Uraniborg, see Victor E. Thoren, The Lord of Uraniborg: A Biography of Tycho 
Brahe, with contributions by John R. Christianson (Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1990), pp. 105-219,334-75. 

25. On Libavius's critique of Brahe in his Alchymiae (1606), see both Owen Hannaway, 
"Laboratory Design and the Aim of Science: Andreas Libavius versus Tycho Brahe," Isis 
11 (1986): 585-610, and the reassessment by Jole Shakelford, "Tycho Brahe, Laboratory 
Design, and the Aim of Science: Reading Plans in Context," Isis 84 (1993): 211-30. As 
Thoren suggests of Brahe and Hannaway of Libavius, both Uraniborg and the unrealized 
Chemical House proposed by Libavius are strongly influenced by Vitruvian architectural 
theory (Thoren, pp. 106-8; Hannaway, pp. 599-602); see further, Rudolf Wittkower, 
Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (1949; rpt. New York: St. Martin's Press, 
1988), pp. 1-28. 

26. Hannaway, p. 605. 

27. Caspar, pp. 99-123; Thoren, pp. 432-42, 450-53. 

28. Thoren, pp. 185-87. 

29. In a compelling study that places Utopia in the context of early modem institutional 
organization. Amy Boesky compares Uraniborg to John Dee's library at Mortlake, Comelius 
Drabbel's laboratory at Eltham Palace, and Rudolph's Prague Academy as a physical 
realization of the Utopian ideal of learning expressed fictionally in Bacon's New Atlantis 
(pub. 1 627) {Founding Fictions: Utopias in Early Modem England [Athens, GA: Univer- 
sity of Georgia Press, 1996], pp. 56-61). 

30. Reiss, pp. 23, 144. For an engaging discussion of the historical development of footnotes, 
see Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univer- 
sity Press, 1997). 

3 1 . Kepler, Mysterium Cosmographicum, p. 39. 

32. Ibid., p. 35. 

33. Field, pp. 30-44. 

34. L Bernard Cohen, for instance, describes the 1621 edition as "notable" for its inclusion of 
Kepler's second thoughts (Preface to Kepler, Mysterium Cosmographicum, p. 7); observing 
that some of Kepler's notes are "rather brutal," Field likewise demonstrates that the notes 
show "which points Kepler believed were important — in 1596, 1621, or both" (p. 34). 
Field also elegantly elucidates the intellectual development between the two versions, with 
separate chapters on each edition (pp. 30-72, 73-95). 



Elizabeth A. Spiller/ 'To Depart from the Earth with Such Writing" / 27 



35. Kepler, MysteriumCosmographicum, p. 4\. 

36. Lucian, A True Story, in A.M. Harmon, ed. and trans., Lucian, 8 vols. (Cambridge, MA: 
Harvard University Press, 1953), 1: 248-357; Arthur O. Prickard, ed. and trans., Plutarch, 
On the Face Which Appears on the Orb of the Moon (Winchester: Warren, 1911). 

37. The Dream was, at Kepler's request, published jointly with his translation of Plutarch into 
Latin; James S. Romm discusses a letter from Kepler to Matthias Bernegger that indicates 
that Kepler originally hoped to include with them an edition of Lucian's A True Story 
("Lucian and Plutarch as Sources for Kepler's Dream," Classical and Modern Literature, 
9 [1989]: 101). Romm concludes that Kepler emphasizes the most self-consciously fictive 
moments of Plutarch and Lucian's work. In doing so, Kepler attempts to reconcile a 
traditional understanding of reading associated with philological scholarship with the new 
kinds of knowledge being discovered through the telescope. 

38. Galileo Galilei, Sidereus nuncius, or, The Sidereal Messenger, ed. and trans. Albert van 
Helden (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 36. 

39. Ibid. 

40. See, e.g., p. 124, n. 202; p. 129, n. 211; p. 54, n. 43. 

41. Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1983), pp. 26-41 . For an introduction to Kepler's contributions 
to seventeenth-century optics and the new "visual" culture that Kepler helped define, see 
David C. Lindberg, Theories of Vision from Al-Kindi to Kepler (Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1976), pp. 178-208; Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, The Mastery of Nature: 
Aspects of Art, Science, and Humanism in the Renaissance (Princeton, NJ: Princeton 
University Press, 1993); and Edward G. Ruestow, The Microscope in the Dutch Republic: 
The Shaping of Discovery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). 

42. Alpers, p. 34. 

43. Alexandre Koyré, From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: Johns 
Hopkins University Press, 1957), pp. 58-87. 

44. Johannes Kepler, De jre//â[ novo (1606), cited in Koyré, p. 6 L 

45. Kepler, Mysterium Cosmographicum, p. 107. 

46. Ibid., p. 155. 

47. Caspar, p. 130; see also Koestler, pp. 324-25, and, for a lucid technical explication, Bruce 
Stephenson, Kepler's Physical Astronomy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), 
pp. 21-39. 

48. Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Voyages to the Moon (New York: Macmillan, 1948), p. 45; Lane, 
p. vii. 

49. Mario Biagioli, Galileo Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 169. 

50. In his prominent attack on Galileo, Martin Horky used precisely this kind of language when 
he asserted to Kepler that not only were the satellites of Jupiter "fictitious" but the whole 
account was nothing more than "a fable" (letter to Johannes Kepler, 27 April 1610, cited in 
Albert van Helden, 'Telescopes and Authority from Galileo to Cassini," Osiris 9 [1994]: 
1 1 ). For assessments of both the initial resistance to the telescope and subsequent acceptance 



28 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



of it, see especially Blumenberg, pp. 642-74; van Helden, 'Telescopes and Authority," pp. 
9-29; Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge 
(London: Verso, 1978); and Biagioli, p. 96, n. 296. 

51. Caspar, p. 18. 

52. Ibid. The inverted illustration in La cosmographie de Pierre Apian (Antwerp, 1 544) can be 
compared, e.g., to a version of the original in Cosmographicus liber Petri Apiani 
mathematici {Antwerp, 1533). 

53. Kepler, New Astronomy, cited in Koestler, p. 3 19. 

54. Alpers identifies Kepler as someone who recognizes that distortion is inherent in any lens 
— whether the lens of the eye or the telescope. She concludes that Kepler defends the use 
of optical tools not so much by arguing for their integrity as by demonstrating that natural 
vision is characterized by a similar distortion, the "deception of vision." As a Utopia, the 
Dream avoids the need to reconcile natural and artificial observation, since it imagines a 
world without man and, in consequence, also without his fallenness (Alpers, pp. 34-35). 

55. Kepler often refers more specifically to the inhabitants of these two hemispheres as, 
respectively, Subvolvans and Privolvans. In keeping with Kepler's understanding of the 
Vol va as the defining feature of this world, the Privolvans, who never get to see the Vol va, 
largely disappear from the narrative. To avoid confusion, I will refer collectively to the 
inhabitants of Levania, even though many of Kepler's remarks would truly apply only to 
the inhabitants of the near side, the face, of the moon. 

56. Derek Howse, Greenwich Time and the Discovery of the Longitude (Oxford: Oxford 
University Press, 1980). 

57. David S. Landes, Revolution in Time (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983), 
pp. 84, 132, 145. 

58. Galileo, Sidereus nuncius, p. 43, and "The Sunspot Letters," in Stillman Drake, ed. and 
trans.. Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1957), p. 92. 

59. Caspar, p. 301. See Stillman Drake and C. D. O'Malley, eds. and trans.. The Controversy 
on the Comets of 1618: Galileo Galilei, Horatio Grassi, Mario Guiducci, Johann Kepler 
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1960). 

60. Blumenberg, p. 630. 



Two Renaissance Lives: 

Benvenuto Cellini 

and Teresa of Jesus 



YEMIN 
CHAO 



Résumé: Le présent article examine les autobiographies de deux personnages 
renaissants, le premier un artiste séculaire, le second une religieuse contempla- 
tive. A travers les images dont chacun se sert pour se façonner, on peut apercevoir 
un engagement commun avec certains thèmes humanistes et religieux qui 
définissent l'époque. Bien que la Renaissance soit généralement abordée comme 
l'âge d'un classicisme revivifié et des tendances humanistes suscitées par ce 
dernier, il faut peut-être également considérer la lutte avec son héritage chrétien 
comme l'élément qui prête à la Renaissance son caractère distinct et particuliè- 
rement profond. 

Benvenuto Cellini's autobiography was composed between the years 1558 
and 1566; it was begun, as he informs us, in the Florence of the High 
Renaissance, where he was bom and to which he had returned after countless 
vicissitudes. He was fifty-eight and judged himself ripe for the undertaking, 
having satisfied his own criterion of being someone "who has to his credit 
what are or really seem great achievements."^ Teresa of Jesus began writing 
her life some years before 1562, when she was forty-eight, and completed it 
in 1565 in the convent she had recently founded within the Spanish heart of 
the Counter- Reformation. Her desire in writing was that God "may be 
praised and magnified a little when men see how on a foul and stinking 
dunghill he has planted a garden of such sweet flowers."^ 

On the face of it, there seems little basis for a comparative study of two 
such lives. One person lived the volatile, creative and amoral life that has 
come to be regarded as a Renaissance type, while the other kept a noiseless 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 2 (1999) 129 



30 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



tenor of pious and mysterious existence that seems an anachronistic survival 
from the Middle Ages. The facts that Cellini invoked the name and help of 
God at almost every turn in his life and that he claimed at the heart of his 
writings a revelation as spectacular as Teresa's have usually been ignored. 
The easiest modem stance is to regard Cellini's claims as nothing other than 
a pack of entertaining lies, Teresa's as subconscious delusions linked with 
psychosomatic disturbances. Yet to treat Cellini's visionary claims as amus- 
ing lies is to assume that he took his Catholicism, as well as his boasts, none 
too seriously. Neither assumption is tenable on a close reading. To regard 
Teresa as a type is to do injustice to the rich complexity of her awareness 
and experiences. To consider her a counter-revolutionary against the currents 
of the Renaissance is to ignore the way she was influenced by and contributed 
to the discovery and study of "Man." 

Approaching the sixteenth century through fixed types and categories 
will only result in circular arguments. Beginning with specific individuals 
and how they saw themselves may yield surprising and corrective inductions. 
First, a preliminary question concerning "design and truth" in autobiogra- 
phies needs to be tackled. There is a point of view that treats autobiography 
as a purely literary genre and assumes poetic licence about the self in such 
compositions. Its thesis is that sane and serious autobiographers lie as a 
matter of convention about the historical facts of their lives in the interest of 
ideal representation. The reason for reading them, then, is that, as Roy Pascal 
puts it, "[e]ven if what they tell us is not factually true, or only partly true, 
it always is true evidence of their personality."^ Pascal's point is unobjec- 
tionable, but it is difficult to accept that the historical truth content of an 
autobiography is likely to be equal to that of a picaresque novel. Exaggera- 
tions and exclusions seem more likely than pure lies, and it is normal that an 
individual's private ordering of facts is audited by his public self. This will 
be taken as a fixed condition in the following enquiry. The study will proceed 
to analyse the two lives according to certain common motifs present in both 
texts and reveal what I believe to be an uncommon unity in their deep 
structure. The first part will show how both lives can be understood as 
fulfilling conventional conceptions of self attributed to the Renaissance 
despite the great disparity in chosen vocations. The second part will take the 
demonstration one step further and show how the modem model of a culture 
and counter-culture is rendered irrelevant by the fluid transitions between 
humanist and religious perceptions in these Renaissance lives. 



Yemin Chao / Two Renaissance Lives / 3 1 



Surveying Two Lives: Unlikely Affinities 

i) The Life as Discoverer 

Cellini began his career, like Teresa, by running away from home. Setting 
out for Rome at nineteen, "the same age as the [sixteenth] century," as he 
noted, he had "cherished hopes of proving what sort of man [he was] from 
the work of [his] hands" (p. 33). In a short space he set his hand to every art 
within and beyond the goldsmith's craft, continually discovering new 
possibilities in working with various metals. He took pride in observing: "All 
the crafts I have mentioned are so different that if an artist is good at one of 
them and then turns to the others, he never succeeds in reaching the same 
standard as in the one he is perfect at. All the same I did everything I could 
to become expert in each one of them" (p. 52). Exploring his own capacity 
in working with clay and marble, he remarked that "the splendid Donatello" 
had failed to understand fully the qualities of the former and that even "the 
great Michelangelo" could not match his knowledge of the latter. For the 
casting of the bronze Perseus, he set himself new limits of difficulty in the 
form of the torso and had to design and build a furnace specially for the 
unprecedented high temperatures anticipated. His relish of praise from popes 
and kings for having surpassed antiquity defined the aspirations of his age. 
His main motivation, as he pointed out, had always been "a spirit of honest 
rivalry" (p. 51), but there is also sheer technical delight in finding out the 
frontiers of possibility with various media. 

Linked to artistic explorations is Cellini's incessant journeying in search 
of optimal conditions and patronage for his craft. Continually at odds with 
the law, his way of living challenged the limits of social and legal accept- 
ability. Proclaiming early on that he was "bom free and meant to remain 
free" (p. 34), he suffered few trammels to his vital expression and love of 
excess in sentiment as in act. He was another Faustus dabbling in necro- 
mancy but surviving the conjuration of legions. The way down was to be 
complemented by the way up in his record of celestial sightings in his prison 
cell. His disclosure that he had read Dante and the way in which the bulging 
figures of the sun's disc in a vision resemble his relief etchings on medallions 
suggest that visual imagination might have been at work. How seriously he 
intended us to read the episode and its structural function will be considered 
below. Here we may simply note that he had aspired to gaze on the sun like 
Saint John the Divine, whose symbol was the eagle. 

An ecstasy takes hold, according to Teresa, who is quoting from Deuter- 
onomy 32:11, like a "powerful eagle, rising and bearing you up with it on 



32 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



its wings" (p. 136). Such an experience occurred as the culmination of the 
various stages of prayer that Teresa had spent her life discovering and 
defining. R. T. Petersson, in The Art of Ecstasy, has described her in terms 
that suggest her role as a spiritual scientist: "Teresa's strength lies in precise 
empirical observation, in a language very sensitively attuned to its subject, 
in her explanation of minute changes within the soul.*"^ Prayer was her craft, 
and in it she proved more comprehensive than almost any medieval mystic 
before her. Her journeys, unlike those of Cellini, were conducted within the 
states of an inner terrain; as she put it, "There is no need to climb up to 
Heaven, nor to go farther than to our own selves" (p. 308). Hailing tested 
experience, like Montaigne, as the only means to real knowledge but reject- 
ing his resignation to nature, she sought by turning her back on one world to 
chart the territories of an unknown other. "So far as my desires went, they 
were always ambitious" (p. 90), she confessed. One may compare the 
strength of her longing for freedom to Cellini's: "O what a grand freedom it 
is, to look upon the need to live and behave according to the world's laws as 
a captivity" (p. 115). Her asceticism needs to be seen in this light. 

What she discovered was that "one [could] see things with other eyes 
than those of the body" (p. 53) — in fact, through a sixth sense involving 
the transposition of the five senses. Transposed tactile and auditory images 
figured most prominently in her descriptions of the "soul's sensations,"^ and 
her visions were rarely visual. Unlike Cellini, who possessed a strong 
graphic imagination, Teresa confessed to being naturally weak in that fac- 
ulty. She did experience vivid graphic revelations notwithstanding; still, her 
most usual mode was of an intimate Presence. Coupled with her discovery 
of the divine presence was, paradoxically, a discovery of the soul's natural 
condition. Its wretchedness she diagnosed in a divided psyche, where the 
intellect and imagination wage a bitter war against the will and the conflict 
is only partially resolved through four successive stages of prayer. These she 
likened to four different ways of drawing water to tend the garden of the 
soul. In her systematic approach, as in the earthiness of her language, she 
must rank among the earliest and most competent "psychoanalysts" of her 
age. Her first subject was herself. She was also an ethical analyst, since the 
discovery of the soul's treacherous depths drove her to the most painstaking 
examination of its minutest motive. Her extreme inner self-consciousness is 
hardly matched by Montaigne, the behaviourist who possessed an unassail- 
able serenity of soul. 



Yemin Chao / Two Renaissance Lives / 33 



ii) The Life as Courtier 

Cellini did not think of himself as an artist solely; he was also the exemplary 
courtier, epitomizing sprezattura in all his alleged accomplishments. He 
refused to descend to the vulgarity of rating his own work and preferred to 
leave it to discriminating patrons, who would know enough to embellish 
praise with comparable substance. One patron (Duke Cosimo of Florence) 
who violated that understanding wound up in Cellini's record for posterity: 
"But not realising that this lord behaved more like a merchant than a duke, 
it was as a duke rather than a merchant that I dealt with him" (p. 314). Indeed, 
the typical pattern he recorded was for his product to exceed all expectations 
but for rewards never to match promises, a situation that prompted him to 
"clear out" in response. Most frequently, malicious envy on the part of 
hangers-on was the cause of the detractions he suffered before kings, dukes 
and popes. Cellini, for his part, was no pacifist, for he returned back-stabbing 
with frontal thrusts of the stiletto, and perceived injustice was met with 
eloquent tongue-lashings, from which not even the Pope was exempt. Most 
potent of all arms was his talent. His record suggests that Bandinello, a rival 
sculptor, and not a few German and Parisian craftsmen, died of shame and 
exhaustion through trying to keep up with Cellini. 

It is at the court of King Francis I that Cellini seemed to have found the 
perfect setting for his brilliance. Disheartened by jealous courtiers who were 
plotting to dislodge him, Cellini was asked by the king, "Who are you? 
What's your name?" (p. 257). Momentarily stunned, Cellini forgot what he 
had explained to us at the beginning about the meaning of his name: "You 
are welcome," his father had proclaimed at his delivery, with his expectations 
of a baby girl pleasantly confounded. Then the king reminded him: "Well if 
you're the Benvenuto I've heard of, act as you usually do — and I give you 
full permission" (p. 257). The king also paid liberally, but, what was more, 
Cellini felt that he was understood: "[His Majesty] saw that I was not the 
man to make a song and dance about it, but that the same day before you 
could bat an eyelid I would clear off without saying a word" (p. 293). In 
reciprocation, Cellini played the flatterer for once and dedicated his statue 
of Mars to the king as a representation of the royal valour. He was to cherish 
the fact that His Majesty had called him "mon ami" (p. 304). 

In the end, however, he did clear out. His excuse was that he had to 
attend to his sister and her orphans. Primarily, perhaps, his departure had to 
do with the king's rebuke, which resembled that of Pope Clement before 
him. It was over the fact that Cellini consistently ignored his wishes and 



34 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



worked according to his own preferences. "Now you should be a little more 
obedient and less arrogant and headstrong" (p. 302), the king had told him. 

In other respects, Cellini presents himself in his book according to the 
portrait of an accomplished courtier, such as might be found in Castiglione's 
guide. He takes pride in tracing his origin back through "men of mettle" (p. 
17), enjoys the awe that his "military character and bearing" (p. 68) inspired, 
and makes constant references to his graceful but deadly accuracy with his 
harquebus. The profession of arms that Castiglione had made a prime 
requisite of a courtier was amply exemplified by a daredevil who almost 
single-handedly held out the Castel Sant'Angelo against the sack of Rome 
and who was a veteran of countless street skirmishes in peacetime. Yet he 
was a master, too, in the arts of peace. The musician that enchanted the pope, 
the poet who ranged through heaven and hell, the diplomat who acquitted 
himself with distinction before the emperor, the orator who struck terror into 
the hearts of magistrates and lawyers with blazing eloquence and stiletto, 
and, finally, the scholar and critic who offered new insight into the dark 
opening line of Canto 7 in Dante's Inferno — these were all met in one figure. 
Like a jeweller who sets off his diamond to full advantage, Cellini ordered 
his history to mirror a common dream and occasional reality of his age: the 
accomplished man of infinite versatility. 

In her Life, Teresa quoted a religious writer who likened convents to 
"courts for the instruction of those who wish to be courtiers of heaven" (p. 
282). Earlier she had visited an aristocratic house under her superior's 
command, where she found that "the comfort of the house was a real torture, 
and the great fuss that was made of [her] filled [her] with fear" (p. 250). She 
was not one to be impressed by a lady's favours: "I never treated those ladies, 
whom it would have been a great honour to serve, otherwise than with the 
freedom of an equal" {ibid.). She likened the life of a worldly courtier to 
slavery and had a hint of its cost in the envy of those who resented the lady's 
love for her. What distressed her most was the careful conduct required to 
avoid offending anyone's vanity: "For try though I might to please, I could 
not help making mistakes; and these, as I have said, are not passed over in 
the world" (p. 28 1). Worldly fashions and etiquette were all of a piece to her, 
and no values to live by. 

Rather, she saw herself enjoying another kind of courtly existence, 
where the will rather than words was regarded, where the "kingdom is not 
hedged about by trifles" and no "third party" is needed to approach "His 
Majesty" (p. 279). For though that was her most common title in addressing 



Yemin Chao / Two Renaissance Lives / 35 



God, she affirmed, "We can talk and converse with You about anything" (p. 
280). Teresa delineated in her forms of address the full range of relationships 
accommodated in the one Majesty she served: "Lord," "Father," "Friend," 
"Captain" — even "Bridegroom," the object of intimate love-talk. There are 
two main strands of feeling in her relationship with her Lord, both of which 
were to develop important practical consequences in her world. 

First, there is the intimate bond that led her to describe prayer as "a 
friendly intercourse and frequent solitary conversation with Him, who, as 
we know, loves us" (p. 63). Prayer began as work to "rise above the pain of 
being so much in the company of One who is so different from you" (ibid.). 
Prayer became enjoyment, for in these later stages "the labour is accompa- 
nied by so much bliss and comfort to the soul that the soul would never 
willingly abandon it" (p. 122). She never asked for consolations or favours, 
however, except once, and then she rapidly regretted doing so. Her reason 
is that she felt unworthy of them, and even the casual reader is struck by her 
continual confessions of wretchedness, which seem excessive. Unlike Cel- 
lini, who was a hedonist at heart — not a fact to scorn in itself — Teresa 
really felt more at home with pain than with pleasure. That may have been 
partly a temperamental preference, partly a response to the spiritual climate 
of her time; it almost certainly reflected a desire to share her Lord's suffering. 
As she put it, "Come what may, the great thing is to embrace the Cross. The 
Lord was deprived of all consolation, and forsaken in His trials. Let us not 
forsake Him" (p. 157). This compassion was to lead to spiritual union, 
described as "two separate things becom[ing] one" (p. 123). She also gave 
a more sophisticated account which would have delighted Pico della Miran- 
dola. The soul, she explained, became like a mirror "entirely shaped to this 
same Lord, by a most loving communion" (p. 308). 

It was an astonishing claim: the woman courtier (a category hotly 
debated in the third book of Castiglione's // Corteggiano) had been raised 
from the ranks through betrothal and become in her words "mistress of 
everything" (p. 144). It is interesting to consider the use Teresa made of her 
"influence," remembering Cellini's repeated mishaps at the hands of 
offended royal consorts. Praying for favours on behalf of Father Garcia de 
Toledo, she twisted her Lord's hand: "You must not refuse me this favour. 
Think what a good man he is for us to have as a friend" (p. 252). Her solitude 
and solicitude expanded to embrace other potential courtiers, and in fact her 
book could be seen as a complement to Castiglione, especially in view of 
Pietro Bembo's speech in the fourth and last book of // Corteggiano. Teresa 



36 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



laid out her reason for writing her Life as follows: "[W]hile my first intention 
in writing is to obey, my chief aim is to lure souls towards this sublime 
blessing" (p. 124). 

At this juncture, it is worth examining a point made by Mary G. Mason 
in "Autobiographies of Women Writers,"^ a study that contains many valu- 
able insights. She considers Teresa's Life together with that of other secular 
and religious women and draws the conclusion that "the self-discovery of 
female identity seems to acknowledge the real presence and recognition of 
another consciousness, and the disclosure of female self is linked to the 
identification of some *other'" (p. 210). This would appear a useful insight 
when we consider the apparently opposing forms of Cellini's and Teresa's 
approaches to the self. Cellini stands out as the sole protagonist in his 
dramatic history of himself, while Teresa's life might finally appear to be 
merely an illustrative example in a spiritual guidebook of God's dealings 
with the soul. In fact, this view will be considered in the final section of this 
study. Yet an objection that might be raised here to Mason's thesis of sexual 
polarisation is the example of Augustine, whose statement in his Confessions 
of the "God-shaped void" in the human soul and its longing for "feminine" 
fulfillment is at least as strong as the "masculine" struggle that Mason 
emphasizes. Another objection presents itself in the example of Augustine's 
disciple Teresa. We must now consider the second dominant strand of her 
sense of soul. 

"As for courage, they say that mine is far from slight, and it is well 
known that God gave me more than a woman's share of it" (p. 64) — or so 
Teresa claimed. The intimate side of Teresa has already been considered; 
here we see another Teresa. She described her kind in the third person: "They 
are like soldiers who wage wars in order to win booty and become rich; they 
know that they can never be rich without fighting. Trials are their profession" 
(p. 256). Her encounters began at home in her warring faculties. Spiritual 
favours, when they descended, were a new source of anxiety. In the tense 
climate of the Spanish Inquisition, where private revelations were distrusted 
and discouraged by the Catholic church and where numerous religious 
women had been discredited and exposed, Teresa suffered a long anguish of 
uncertainty about the source of her visions. That anguish of uncertainty is 
matched only by Bunyan's experience, from the opposite camp, as recorded 
in Grace Abounding. Her spiritual environment explains her distrust of 
consolations offered in ecstasies and her preference for the way of the Cross. 
There at least she knew that she was on the right road. Augustine's enemy 



Yemin Chao / Two Renaissance Lives / 37 



was well-defined. For a long time Teresa was fighting against both God and 
the devil, with only her own weariness to fall back on. 

What she seemed to have gained from remaining in the fray was a 
personal encounter that caused her inner divisions to be integrated at a point 
beyond herself. The martial element dates from this integration. A new 
sureness of tone emerges, together with a self-forgetfulness. One sees this 
in the way she handled opposition to her first commission in founding Saint 
Joseph's: "I saw quite well that in many respects my opponents were right. 
. . . But I could not tell them my principal argument — that I had been 
obeying the Lord's commands" (p. 241). She spoke metaphorically of a 
"captain" prized by God and entrusted with a company. She spoke of "great 
exploits" to be achieved with the favour of God, and one is led to liken her 
spiritual pain and renewal to those of a squire winning his spurs and fighting 
under a banner. Perhaps her early love of chivalric romance was not as 
irrelevant as she had thought. 

Saint Joseph is an unusual patron in the conventual tradition, but the 
choice signified Teresa's manly soul. Like Cellini, she saw herself as a 
guardian of fortresses, although that, too, was only one facet of a versatile 
personality. The fortress of Saint Joseph's was also the garden paradise of 
"those who wish[ed] to enjoy the company of their Bridegroom, Christ, in 
solitude" (p. 276). Teresa was in a significant sense neither male nor female 
but a new creation. In her foundation, as in her book, she possessed parallel 
accomplishments to the arms and letters figured in Castiglione's courtier. 

Retelling Two Lives: Surprising Inversions 

i) The Saint 

"The more I sought for rest, the more my tribulations increased" (p. 281) — 
so ran the complaint of Cellini as he approached old age. From his earliest 
youth, his life had presented itself as a series of trials and stumbling blocks 
caused by the malice, envy and ingratitude of acquaintances, courtiers and 
patrons. Even his bosom friends had raised their heels against him. Whether 
it was Giovanni Caddi, who wished his death in order to seize his fortune, 
or "Rosso" — in Cellini's words, "the best friend I could have in the world" 
— who rewarded his generous treatment with "brazen-faced ingratitude" (p. 
1 82), the pattern of betrayal did not change. But through it all, Cellini seemed 
to have led a charmed life. 

It began with his father's prophecies concerning him. When he was 
sentenced to death in Florence for attempted murder, his father, who had a 



38 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



previous history of prophetic utterance, mocked the magistrates: "You will 
do what God wills and nothing more" (p. 38); Cellini's escape confirmed 
this claim. More than once in his life, Cellini was to thank God for "averting 
the eyes" of his pursuers. And against the injustice of his foes, he was to 
assert the Almighty's intervention on his behalf, as the death of Luigi Pulci 
in the manner of his oath had demonstrated. But Cellini did not only wait for 
God's judgement to descend; he was ready to execute it. "God, who is always 
on the side of right, and I, who know how to assert it, will show you what a 
great mistake you've made" (p. 285), he told Francesco Bologna. Not even 
the Pope was exempt from Cellini's invocation of God's wrath, and in this 
he discovered a prophetic role like that of the Baptist against the Pharisees. 
He was less harsh in special cases: "I want to observe the decrees of our Holy 
Mother Church: although she is doing me this wicked wrong [imprisoning 
him], I am only too glad to forgive" (p. 214). 

With the burden of prophecy came the visionary gift. Thus he was the 
only one to understand the portent of the beam of fire hovering over 
Florentine skies. When his predictions proved true about the murder of Duke 
Alessandro, they marvelled at him: "It's not worth spending money on 
couriers when you know things before they happen. What supernatural voice 
tells them to you?" (p. 166). In his illness, his second sight perceived the 
Enemy that hunted his soul in the form of a sinister old man. Such signs 
were, however, only the prelude to the grand vision of his prison experience, 
whereby he was to make sense of the significance of his sufferings and his 
commission. Troubled as to why God had suffered him to be imprisoned and 
prevented his attempted suicide by an overpowering hand, he "besought 
Christ to grant [him] at least the grace to know by divine inspiration for what 
sin [he] was doing such great penance" (p. 223). The answer came swiftly, 
as he was "seized by [an] invisible force and carried away as if by a wind" 
(p. 223). Ascending Jacob's "staircase," he was to see a vision of the sun's 
disc with a bulge in the middle, which became the crucifix. From thence, 
every doubt was vanquished. 

There were, in fact, two answers. The New Testament answer ran that 
the "glorious divine Saviour [was] making [him] one with his disciples and 
friends, who like Him were killed unjustly" (p. 214). This is the substance 
of the Passion play. And so he played the part, in a manner worthy of a John 
of the Cross: "[A]ll day long I sang psalms and compositions of my own, all 
addressed to Him. . . . Oh, how much happier I am now than I was then" (p. 
219). The Old Testament answer was bound up with the image of the pilgrim 



Yemin Chao / Two Renaissance Lives / 39 



Patriarch. Such figures, too, found trouble in the world, but this was also the 
surety of God's favour. Thus Cellini also responded: "God in his greatness 
has made me worthy to set eyes on His glory; on things perhaps never seen 
before by mortal eyes. So this proves my freedom, and my happiness, and 
my favour with God: while you villains, you shall always be villains, 
unhappy and in disgrace with God" (p. 224). In this role, it is permissible 
and indeed exemplary to wrestle for God's blessing. So we see Jacob 
"Perseus" Cellini in the casting of the Medusa-slayer wrestling for such a 
blessing. He would "vanquish all [his] perfidious enemies" (p. 333) if God 
gave him grace to create the bronze statue. In fact, he would have to win his 
blessing. Confronted with a death-dealing fever, the sabotage of enemies, 
the incompetence of workman and the resistance of Nature, he staged a 
remarkable comeback that worsted all opposition. In the irrepressible burst 
of energy involved in resuscitating the "corpse" of the Perseus, Cellini also 
brought himself back from death's door. A miracle of resurrection had been 
wrested, and Cellini was to relish his enemies' contention that he was 
obviously a fiend and no human being. The same had been said of his Lord 
before him. 

Doubting Thomases, who refuse to believe that Cellini took his faith 
seriously, will cast a stone at his homicidal exploits or his sexual deviance, 
which are by no means venial sins. Cellini would in turn direct them to cast 
it at his stars, the malign conjunction of which he never ceased to deplore in 
medieval fashion: "So in a furious temper, swelling up like an asp, I made 
up my mind to do something desperate. This just shows how the stars 
completely rule rather than merely influence our lives" (p. 37). Art historians 
who deplore this treatment of Cellini's Mannerist career may consider that 
along with the Perseus, which he left as a symbol of his work, he left another 
in the marble crucifix he was so proud of. Two- thirds of the way into his 
autobiography, he wrote: "There is no motive of worldliness in my writing 
down these affairs of mine; all I want to do is give thanks to God for rescuing 
me from so many great afflictions" (p. 31 1). That might be considered with 
the worldly reason he gave on the first page for a more complete survey of 
his life. Alongside the Renaissance model of the "magnanimous man" who 
left his records for emulation stands the "Christian saint" who made his boast 
in the Lord. 

ii) The Humanist 

After running down the autobiography of Margery Kempe, a medieval 

religious, for its supposed failure to "relate meaningfully outer event and 



40 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



inner experience," Roy Pascal rather incomprehensibly praises Teresa for 
the way she "entwines the story of her inward experience with that of the 
small encounters of outward life."^ What he assumes without explicitly 
saying is that Teresa as a Renaissance figure is in some way superior in 
self-awareness to the mystics of the Middle Ages. 

Pascal's choice of examples is rather unfortunate, however. Not only is 
The Book of Margery Kempe (c. 1432) the first full English autobiography, 
as Mason points out,^ but it is probably among the first records of an active 
and contemplative lifestyle lived in conjunction. Margery, who had borne 
fourteen children, discovered a new husband in Christ and went about on 
pilgrimages to visit holy sites, to discuss her experiences, and to bear witness. 
The vicissitudes of her journeys, down to their domestic complications and 
her inconvenient gift of expressing compassion with Christ in uncontrollable 
weepings and bowlings, are related with a unity of sense and feeling derived 
from her mystical commitment. Some of this appears bizarre, no doubt, and 
one might say that Margery was a singularly idiosyncratic character, but one 
could not accuse her of being a faceless figure or lacking a sense of self. Her 
confrontation with shocked and envious priests and parishioners could not 
have been sustained without a large measure of panache. In that respect, as 
in its journey motif, her autobiography yields interesting comparisons with 
Cellini's. 

Pascal's comparison is unfortunate because, unlike Teresa, whose active 
life began late and who trampled down worldly detail with "manly strength," 
Margery never left it, and it was she who really "entwined the story of her 
inward experience with that of the small encounters of outward life." But 
the bringing together of the two characters is felicitous in another way. It 
allows one to see that before the Renaissance had magnified Man, the 
medieval mystics were already "publishing" their idiosyncratic lives and 
private reflections as if they had a right to do so. 

Renaissance humanism has been perceived as a cultural and scholarly 
change in focus from abstruse theorising about the world, created and 
"increate" in the terms of medieval metaphysics, to the potential and respon- 
sibilities of Man reflected through the revived interest in moral and political 
philosophy.^ Humanism formed the substance of that "renewed faith in the 
power and stature of the human creature" ^^ which is supposed to be the 
manifesto of the Renaissance. Yet the humanists themselves were aware of 
the negative side of human nature, and the interest in and study of Man 
initiated by Petrarch, Erasmus, More and Castiglione would lead to the dark 



Yemin Chao / Two Renaissance Lives / 41 



formulations of Luther, Calvin, and Machiavelli, as well as to the scepticism 
of Montaigne, all of which ought to be considered part of the Renaissance 
proper and not, as Hiram Haydn suggests, a counter-culture.^^ 

If we consider how Teresa stood in relation to these generalisations 
about the Renaissance and medieval mysticism, we can gain some sense of 
her part in both. First, we know from her Life that reading formed a major 
part of her contemplative career and that her diet consisted of the lives of 
other saints, which included the writings of the medieval mystics. We also 
know that she had little knowledge of scholastic philosophy and its distinc- 
tions; thus she confessed, "I am unable to use the proper terms and I cannot 
understand what is meant by 'mind' or how this differs from *sour or 'spirit.' 
They all seem the same to me, though the soul sometimes issues from itself, 
like a fire that is burning and has become wholly flame" (p. 122). We can 
see from this remark how she has substituted for scholastic logic "the poetry 
of experience."* 2 In fact, although she could have had no formal training in 
rhetoric, Teresa's powers of organisation and expression are evident in her 
writing. She rediscovers the dynamic of the parable in the story of the peasant 
who died of shock through having uncovered a priceless treasure — a vivid 
illustration of the fact that God in his care bestows favours gradually — and 
the myth of the phoenix rising from its ashes, used as a metaphor for the old 
man dying into the new (p. 304). 

The parable is itself a vehicle that draws from and communicates 
through individual and collective experience, conscious and unconscious, 
and is really the language of folk culture.*^ So that if one thinks of the 
humanists as constituting a high culture against the scholastics, one might 
equally regard Teresa as their counterpart in a humbler mode. They drew on 
the classics of antiquity and she on the medieval mystics, amongst whom the 
tradition of devotion, which emphasized the individual's motive and 
response, and of experiential eloquence had never been lost. A good example 
is the most famous allegory in the writings of Dame Julian of Norwich: 

Also in this he showed a littil thing, the quanti tye of an hesil nutt in the palme of my 
hand; and it was as round as a balle. I lokid thereupon with eye of my understondyng 
and thowte: "What may this be?" And it was generally answered thus: "It is all that is 
made." I mervellid how it might lesten, for methowte it might suddenly have fallen to 
nowte for littil. And I was answered in my understondyng: "It lesteth and ever shall, for 
God loveth it; and so allthing hath the being be the love of God."^^ 

In the form of an internal dialogue, which makes an interesting comparison 
with Plato's, the writer works with her spiritual understanding upon a 



42 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



visionary symbol and discovers to her amazement that she could hold all 
creation within the tiny hazel nut. The lesson she draws, which tells us as 
much about her as about her God^^ — namely, that the seeming 
insignificance but truly infinite value of all creation, including herself, 
resides in her Creator's love — makes an interesting contrast to the 
Aristotelian methods of Aquinas, for instance, which leave out the aspect of 
personal relationship. 

In fact. Dame Julian, Teresa and the humanists mentioned all share a 
common tradition, which has at its core a Son of Man who claimed also to 
be the Son of God and proffered that spiritual adoption to all who believed 
in that relationship. He preferred to speak in parables but allowed the 
methods of classical philosophy to elucidate and embellish the Christian 
faith. The mystic might be said to keep alive the dynamic of his personality 
and the claim that he is in Himself, "the Way, the Truth and the Life." 

Teresa herself refused to lay aside the humanity of Christ in contempla- 
tion, insisting on its coherence with his divinity and refuting the "negative 
theology" of pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and others in his tradition. 
Her specific contribution as a Renaissance figure is her imaginative recovery 
of a whole range of positive human roles for the divine and for herself, a 
point that has been made in considering her life as a courtier. Further, in 
reading her Life, one is struck by the intensity with which she affirmed both 
sides of a dialectic that made up the Renaissance. In her battle-cry for the 
conquest of spiritual merit, one seems to hear an echo of Pico's great Oration, 
which gave to man "the power, out of [his] soul's judgment, to be reborn into 
the higher forms, which are divine." ^^ Alternately, when she sinks into shame 
and self-abasement over her human weakness, one hears the plaintive notes 
of Luther. 

The experience of both those sides of the spiritual equation is by no 
means novel; neither is the resolution of them. The above citation from Dame 
Julian expresses it, and Richard Hooker was to arrive at it in his sensible, 
rational way. It is the intensity of emotional immediacy in Teresa's state- 
ments that is novel — as if she had internalised the contradictions of her age 
and, suffering its anguish intimately, emerged on the other side without 
becoming crippled. That conflict is revealed in her vivid coupling of meta- 
phors: "[T]here is no soul on this path who is such a giant that he does not 
often need to turn back and be a child at the breast again. ... the questions 
of sin and self-knowledge are the bread which we must eat with even the 
most delicate dish on this road of prayer" (p. 94). Her chosen vocation was 



Yemin Chao / Two Renaissance Lives / 43 



prayer, but she allowed that there were many roads to the Mansion of many 
rooms (p. 93). Perhaps one might allow that even the road of prayer, trodden 
with integrity, could present an inquiry into the spirit of Man that preoccu- 
pied the Renaissance. That Teresa was deficient in classical learning and the 
accomplishments of the secular life ought no longer, perhaps, to exclude her 
from our reckoning of Renascent selves. 

Conversely, the checkered life of a flamboyant artist like Cellini may 
be presented with so much conviction of its spiritual character as to defy 
easy cynicism. The uneasy balance of sanctity and honour in Renaissance 
conceptions and projections of self is a familiar problem for the critic. The 
sprezattura of Castiglione's ideal courtier encompasses his martial, artistic 
and courtly prowess, even as it accommodates the Neoplatonic vision of 
love's sublimation such as we fmd it in Bembo's impassioned discourse in 
// Corteggiano. Cellini's odyssey through the challenges of his craft and his 
career, where he is swift to defend his honour with the stiletto and "the sword 
of his mouth," is complemented by his discovery of a religious pattern, in 
which he discerned the hand of God moulding its object. Teresa, with her 
acute perception of the deceitful heart and her loathing of the false honour 
promoted by earthly courts, clearly defined the uncompromising pursuit of 
sanctity. Cellini retained the perspective of many Renaissance humanists, 
for whom sanctity remained the ideal completion of a life that had fulfilled 
its potential in the world. For Cellini, as for the patriarch Jacob, the ladder 
reached from earth to heaven and God was at the top. The crookedness of 
Jacob did not exclude him from heavenly visions, as he wrestled for a 
blessing, and it did not stop Cellini from interpreting his trials from a 
religious perspective. 

The study of these two autobiographies gives us a glimpse of a six- 
teenth-century Europe where a man and a woman struggled with the fact that 
they were living spirits encased in flesh with a destiny to fulfill between 
heaven and earth. Though the Renaissance is popularly understood in terms 
of the rebirth of classical learning and the humanist impulses so fostered, 
one should perhaps also regard the wrestling with its Christian heritage as 
what gives the age its singular depth and distinction. 

National University of Singapore 



44 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Notes 

1 . Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography, trans. George Bull (London: Penguin, 1956), p. 1 5. All 
quotations of Cellini are taken from this edition. 

2. Saint Teresa of Àvila, The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, trans. J. M. Cohen 
(London: Penguin, 1957), p. 75. All quotations of Teresa are taken from this edition. 

3. Roy Pascal, Design and Truth in Autobiography (London: Routledge, 1960), p. 1. 

4. Robert T. Petersson, The Art of Ecstasy: Teresa, Bernini, and Crashaw (London: Routledge, 
1970), p. 26. 

5. Ibid. 

6. Mary G. Mason, "The Other Voice: Autobiographies of Women Writers," m Autobiography: 
Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. James Olney (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University 
Press, 1980), pp. 207-35. 

7. Pascal, pp. 25-27. 

8. Mason, p. 209. 1 should acknowledge my debt to Mason's insights on and placing of Julian 
of Norwich and Margery Kempe. 

9. Cf Isabel Rivers, Classical and Christian Ideas in English Renaissance Poetry (London: 
Allen and Unwin, 1979), pp. 132^7. 

10. A phrase used by WiUiam Rose Benêt, éd.. The Reader's Encyclopaedia, 3rd ed. (London: 
Black, 1987). See entry on "Pico della Mirandola." 

11. See Hiram Collins Haydn, The Counter-Renaissance (1950; rpt. Gloucester, MA: Peter 
Smith, 1966). 

12. A phrase used by Robert Langbaum {The Poetry of Experience: The Dramatic Monologue 
in Modem Literary Tradition [London: Chatto and Windus, 1957]). 

13. My views on this point have been generally influenced by Carl Jung and Northrop Frye. 

14. Julian of Norwich, A Revelation of Love, ed. Marion Glasscoe (Exeter: University of Exeter, 
1976), p. 5. 

15. I do not mean that the internal dialogue is generated by her own psychological state, 
supposing the vision to be real. I mean that the questions a person asks and his interpretation 
of an answer reflect on the person he/she is. 

16. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, "Oration on the Dignity of Man," trans. Elizabeth 
Livermore Forbes, in The Renaissance Philosophy of Man, ed. Ernst Cassirer et al. 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 225. 



The End of Chivalric 

Romance: Barthélémy 

Aneau's Alector (1560)^ 



VIRGINIA 
KRAUSE 



Résumé: Lorsque /'Alector J^ Barthélémy Aneau est paru en 1560, le roman de 
chevalerie attirait de vives critiques. Il est donc surprenant qu'un humaniste 
sérieux, tel que Vêtait Aneau, ait emprunté largement aux conventions romanes- 
ques, autant nouvelles (suspens) qu'anciennes (chevalier errant, aventure che- 
valeresque, quête). Encore plus frappante est son intention déclarée d'imposer 
un dessein moral et narratif sur un genre défini par son manque de clôture. Le 
présent article explore le projet d' Aneau de racheter les égarements du roman 
au moyen de l'allégorie, comprise comme agent fragile du projet moral et de la 
vérité humanistes contre lesquels conspirent les errements de l'intrigue. 

Errant Romance: From Medieval Cycles to Renaissance Sequels 

Romance enjoyed the dubious privilege of being among both the most widely 
read and the most fiercely attacked genres during the French Renaissance. 
Du Bellay saw in the medieval romance legacy potential material for a 
properly French epic,^ but this initial enthusiasm soon gave way to 
exasperation in learned circles, as Amadis de Gaule and other works of its 
kind turned out to be at best a waste of time and at worst a school of vice.^ 
Once the privileged expression of a cultural elite in twelfth-century courtly 
society, chivalric romance was to fall to the humble status of so many little 
chapbooks in the Bibliothèque Bleue circulating during the seventeenth 
century. These tales of knight-errantry were to be peddled by colporteurs 
who were themselves errant, or more appropriately, vagabond.^ 

Emblematic of the decline of chivalric romance is the new meaning the 
verb "to err" assumed during the Renaissance, for it no longer had the same 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 2 (1999) /45 



46 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



significance for Amadis's generation that it had possessed for medieval 
readers. The medieval verb ''errer" meant simply "to go," but during the 
Renaissance it assumed all of the negative connotations that it has today: to 
have no purpose, to be literally and morally lost, to do wrong.^ The tragi- 
comic errors and delusions of Don Quixote dramatize the new connotations 
of errantry, although disenchantment with chivalric romance began well 
before his arrival. 

According to Etienne Pasquier, the Amadis vogue lasted some twenty 
years after Herberay des Essarts's highly acclaimed adaptation of the first 
book of Amadis was published in 1540.^ Humanist attacks, however, began 
as soon as 1543.^ Among the charges leveled at romance was its "useless- 
ness,"^ an accusation that may have had something to do with its long, 
cyclical (a-telic) form. From the thirteenth century on, most prose romance 
was characterized by its tendency to multiply the number of heroes, interlace 
their increasingly complex quests, and insert individual stories into vast 
cycles.^ With the printing press came a virtual explosion of remaniements 
("remakes"), continuations, and sequels stemming from the already intricate 
narratives of medieval prose romance. The epitome of this tendency was the 
Amadis cycle, which had some twenty volumes. As Renaissance printers 
realized that the success of a current best-seller could be exploited by 
printing a "sequel," romance proved to be a lucrative business. Printers 
thereby blurred the line between the medieval ideal of cyclicity and simple 
serialization. If, as early as 1555, humanists were complaining that turning 
out an Amadis was far too easy, one may conclude that serialization was 
already prompting dismay. ^^ 

Given the climate around 1560, it is rather surprising that a serious 
humanist like Barthélémy Aneau should attempt to rehabilitate romance. Yet 
Aneau borrows romance conventions (including the knight-errant), while 
insisting on the eminent "usefulness" of his Alector. As we shall see, Aneau 's 
attempt to redeem romance hinges on aligning open-ended romance with 
moral purpose, on crafting a narrative that is telic, both formally and morally. 
He thus proclaims, in effect, that teleology is inherent in the vocation of 
knight-errantry, as though to counter the Amadis paradigm, defined by its 
numerous knights-errant, who never really seem to reach the "end" (moral 
or narrative) of their journeys. Indeed, Aneau declares his knight-errant to 
be no less than the agent of truth and moral purpose, this in the wake of the 
cyclicity, not to mention serialization, of chivalric romance. By following 
allegory through the vagaries of plot, I hope to determine to what extent 



Virginia Krause / The End of Chivalric Romance / 47 



Aneau*s recourse to allegory succeeds in imposing narrative and moral 
finality on errant romance. 

Alector: Chivalric Romance Redeemed? 

Alector, Aneau's only histoire fabuleuse ^^^ includes a number of romance 
conventions, such as masquerading as a translation; using numerous 
prophecies; and structuring the chronology around the hero's enfances, 
adventures, deeds, and quest. The "Propos Rompus" allude to a number of 
the traditional figures of the matière de Bretagne, including Lancelot du Lac, 
King Arthur, and Galehaut, as though to follow in the tradition of prose 
romance and to inscribe Alector within an existing matière. However, in 
comparison to prose romance such as the Lancelot, Guiron le Courtois, the 
Perceforest, and Amadis de Gaule, Alector is remarkably short: in 
surprisingly few pages, Aneau tells the story of Franc-Gal's long journey, 
which began well before the flood, taking him from his marriage with a 
Melusine-like woman, the birth of their son Alector, and the establishment 
of chivalric civilization among barbarians, to his arrival at the city of Orbe, 
where his son Alector is on trial for murder. 

Beginning and end are firmly bridged by three narrative devices: bio- 
graphy (the literal and allegorical journey of Franc-Gal is also the course of 
his life); quest (Alector is looking for his father and vice- versa); ^^ and trial, 
from Alector' s accusation to his acquittal. Aneau skillfully brings all three 
strands together at the end of the narrative, as Franc-Gal is reunited with his 
son and able to witness his heroic combat, acquittal, and civic crowning, only 
to die from the excessive emotions caused by these events. Chronology and 
plot are rigorously submitted to the "end," giving Alector a structure clearly 
distinct from the open-ended romance paradigm. 

Aneau uses the path motif to orchestrate the chronology and interlace 
the narrative threads. This motif also serves to situate the entire narrative on 
a spiritual plane. Franc-Gal explains the moral significance of the path: 

II est par le monde une certaine voie longue, mais estroite et peu fréquentée, pour estre 
aspre, scabreuse et trop difficile à tenir, laquelle voie non obstant conduict au tresantique 
temple du souverain, (p. 55) 

The long and narrow path in question has a variety of sources, both biblical 
and classical, ^^ while its destination (the "tresantique temple du souverain") 
comes from the Perceforest. Aneau then has Franc-Gal's companion, the 
Archier, object that this allegory is excessive: "ne suys point pèlerin" (p. 86). 



48 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



But Franc-Gal eventually persuades the old priest that we are all pilgrims, 
on our way to our true home with the Creator:*'* 

nous sommes tous pèlerins dès nostre jeunesse, et par diverses voies, adventures et 
dangiers, tendons au temple Souverain, où nous est promis repos, comme en retour, à 
notre propre maison paternelle, (p. 87) 

Aneau has thus invested knight-errantry with a clear moral telos (God), as 
if to insist that his Alector had nothing in common with a-telic romance. 

True to the pilgrimage allegory, Aneau*s knight-errant cannot rest until 
he reaches the end of his journey. Franc-Gal lingers only once when he meets 
and falls in love with Priscaraxe. During this very brief sojourn, Alector is 
conceived and Franc-Gal establishes aristocratic civilization among barbar- 
ians. However, instead of living happily ever after with his new wife, 
Alector 's pilgrim/knight-errant sets out again immediately. At the moment 
of his departure, Franc-Gal must justify errantry to his amorous wife, as well 
as to the reader. The pretext for leaving, what Propp termed the "disjunc- 
tor,"i5 is, again, the "pilgrimage": 

Venu le temps que Priscaraxe se sentit avoir prins germe de moy et estre enceinte, je 
prins deliberation de la laisser, combien que départir de plaisance, trop grève, et 
nonobstant que sa conversation et compaignie me fust fort agréable et delectable, 
neantmoins encore plus me esmouvoit le désir d'une peregrination universelle que de 
long temps j'avoie entreprise, (p. 94; my italics) 

Several pages later, he again makes reference to the vow he took "de 
peregrination au temple souverain" (p. 96). The end of Alector does in fact 
correspond to Franc-Gal's death — his arrival at "the sovereign temple." On 
the last day of his pilgrimage ("au dernier jour de sa peregrination" [p. 196]), 
Franc-Gal returns to his "origin," what he calls the "lieu d'ond j'estoie parti" 
(p. 119): this reference stands as a reminder that God lies both at the 
beginning and at the end of the journey, for pilgrimage is as much an 
archeology as a teleology. 

As for the young Alector, a perpetual mover like his father, Aneau is 
equally careful to provide a moral gloss for his reasons for leaving home. 
These include some of the knight-errant's standard motivations, such as 
honor, adventure, and a specific goal (here, finding his father). *^ The narrator 
explains that Alector's departure was also necessary in order to avoid the 
temptation of incest. Apparently, Priscaraxe was afraid that 



Virginia Krause / The End of Chivalric Romance / 49 



... de la trop effrénée salacité de la jeunesse d* Alector et de la trop familière conversation 
de grand filz avec jeune mere sans mary ne s'ensuyvit ou crimineux inceste, ou 
diffamatoire suspicion. ... (p. 125) 

Aneau has thus equated not only errantry with pilgrimage, but also stasis 
with incest, implying that an idle knight is guilty of preferring the earthly 
mother over the heavenly father. The reasons given for his errantry 
thoroughly saturate Alector' s departure with moral and social necessity. 

Like their medieval predecessors, Alector and Franc-Gal understand 
that before all else the knight-errant must go. In medieval romance, a knight 
who ignores this imperative is guilty of recréantise, a serious infraction 
against the chivalric code that usually denotes laziness or a general failure 
to perform the acts required of knights. Originally, however, recréantise 
referred to apostasy: a knight's inaction was thus somehow akin to a 
renunciation of religious faith. This etymology is a reminder that underlying 
the knight's errantry in romance lies the archetypal path of homo viator}'^ 
The knight-errant personifies the transience of the human condition: life is 
but a journey, man a restless traveller, and only at the journey's end will he 
find true rest. From its very beginning, romance has played off the allegorical 
resonances of the knight's path, which promises — and reconciles — profane 
and sacred truths. ^^ 

In Alector, the sole alternative to homo viator's steady progression is 
ecstasy. Franc-Gal's pilgrimage is occasionally interrupted by intense 
moments of revelation during which his familiar demon transports (ravir) 
his spirit {esprit) in order that it may contemplate marvelous things. He 
explains: 

. . . m' advint un jour que estant au pied de celle tour, contemplant en admiration la 
merveilleuse fabricque d'icelle . . . donc estant quasi assommé en telle consyderation, 
voici que de la partie du ciel descendit volant vers moy un oyseau de blanc plumage . . . 
qui par manière de me baiser, me vint mettre le bec en bouche, et ainsi me becquetant, 
par une certaine vertu occulte tira mon esprit à soy, le corps ce pendant laissé vivant, 
spirant et animant comme en ectase. (p. 57) 

Rabelais, too, describes ecstasy as a rupture in pilgrimage. In the poem 
addressed to Marguerite de Navarre at the beginning of Le Tiers Livre, he 
writes: 

Esprit abstraict, ravy, et ecstatic. 
Qui fréquentant les cieulx, ton origine. 
As délaissé ton hoste et domestic, 



50 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Ton corps concords, qui tant se morigine, 

A tes edictz, en vie peregrine. 

Sans sentement, et comme en Apathie: 

Vouldrois tu poinct faire quelque sortie 

De ton manoir divin, perpétuel? (emphasis added) 

The pilgrim reaches the divine by passing through the terrestrial; in contrast, 
the mystic simply transcends the terrestrial. Aside from rare moments of 
ecstatic rapture, Franc-Gal's condition is that of the pilgrim who has 
embarked upon a gradual moral and physical peregrination. 

To this remoralization of errantry, Aneau adds a third dimension, this 
time properly philosophical. Knight-errant, pilgrim, Franc-Gal is also a 
wandering wise man, a cosmopolitan sage. This figure testifies to Aneau's 
debt to the prisca theologia — a synthesis of writings on Moses, pagan 
mythology, Greek philosophy (Plato and Pythagoras), and theology. Travel- 
ing the world over, he transmits wisdom wherever he goes.^^ Beyond its 
explicitly moral function, Franc-Gal's path thus assumes an epistemological 
value. The desire for knowledge of himself and of the world defines the 
figure of the medieval knight-errant, who is partly motivated by his curiosity, 
his desire to confront the unknown and to have marvelous adventures. 
However, in Alector, the philosophical resonances are so consistent that the 
text could be read as an enigma, with chivalric adventures masking i\\t prisca 
theologia subtext.^ ^ This tendency in romance will reach its apogee with 
Béroalde de Verville's philosophical romances of the late Renaissance.^^ 

In true Renaissance fashion, Aneau also gives his knight-errant a com- 
panion — and devisant — in the form of the elderly priest or Archie r, named 
Croniel, with whom Franc-Gal makes the final stages of his journey. It is 
also to the Archier that Franc-Gal narrates his past adventures. Their con- 
versation is a clever framing device, which allows Franc-Gal to tell his own 
story and the Arc/i/^r to interlace the history of Orbe. But it is more than this. 
In fact, the two wise men are engaged in a properly philosophical dialogue, 
partly thanks to their common interest in prisca theologia. It becomes 
increasingly apparent that, in narrating the story of his own peregrinations , 
Franc-Gal is also telling the story of humanity. However, this story can only 
be fully understood with the help of the Archier, who contributes some of 
the missing pieces and confirms the truth of those affirmations that lack 
verisimilitude. Thus, when Franc-Gal tells the Archier about the visions he 
had during moments of ecstasy, the latter proceeds to tell a story of Orbe that 



Virginia Krause / The End of Chivalric Romance / 5 1 



serves to confirm and complete Franc-Gal's revelations. He begins his own 
story by stating: 

Ce que tu as compté ... est admirable, mais neantmoins assez vraysemblable et croyable, 
quant à mon opinion. Car le mesme ou semblable a esté depuys n'agueres entendu en 
ceste region par une merveilleuse & supematurelle adventure, (pp. 58-59) 

The addition of dialogue to the theme of homo viator suggests that allegory 
alone fails to satisfy the humanist's desire for truth, as though merely 
traveling towards the Creator were insufficient without discours. Humanist 
colloquy is thus called upon to fill in the epistemological gaps of the 
pilgrimage allegory. 

In short, Aneau has remotivated the medieval homo viator, against his 
own century's critiques of pilgrimage, while giving the figure a properly 
humanist bent. Like Rabelais, Aneau uses romance conventions in order to 
fashion a work of high erudition: Aneau-romanc^r borrows the figure of the 
knight-errant from discredited romance and reaffirms his higher moral 
meaning, while his humanist preoccupations lead him to add an epistemo- 
logical value to his protagonist's errantry. In Alector, the idealized path obeys 
a triple imperative: narrative structure, knowledge, and salvation.^^ 

Yet Aneau also introduces deferment and narrative fragmentation into 
pilgrimage allegory. He prefaces Alector with the deliberately enigmatic 
"Propos Rompus," These are presented as "damaged, incomplete, and non- 
consecutive pages" (p. 13) of the "manuscript" that Aneau pretends to have 
found, translated, and published. In the guise of a translator and editor, Aneau 
claims to have included these fragments because they "semblent bien estre 
parties appartenantes à la precedence de l'histoire" {ibid.). He then 
announces the narrative proper with the heading, ''Fragment de L'Histoire 
Fabuleuse du Preux Chevalier Alector . . ." (p. 17), begins the narrative in 
médias res, proceeds to defer the outcome of Alector's trial to the very end, 
and finally resolves the narrative tension only to announce a forthcoming 
sequel, as the reader is reminded that Alector has been only the first part.^"^ 
All of these instances are variations on the theme of suspense, insofar as they 
are designed to toy with the reader's expectations through a manipulation of 
dispositio. Terence Cave has traced the origin of the modem notion of 
suspense to Marco Vida's De arte poetica (1527).^^ First Vida, then Amyot 
and others, articulated a model and terminology for understanding the 
psychological force of suspense, its capacity to hold the reader captive until 
the plot's resolution.^^ Cave describes Vida's conception of the effect of 
suspense on the reader as a mixture of pleasure and anguish: 



52 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Le poète s'ingénie donc à stimuler ce désir, à tourner l'esprit du lecteur ça et là, à le 
"suspendre" et ainsi à le tourmenter ("suspenditque diu miseros torquetque legentes"). 
. . . L'effet de lecture décrit ici est très proche de la conception moderne du suspens dans 
la mesure où l'accent est mis sur la relation de pouvoir entre auteur et lecteur et sur 
r angoisse qu'éprouve celui-ci: la lecture est représentée comme un plaisir masochiste. 

Centuries of novelists were to exploit and elaborate upon the findings of 
these Renaissance theorists, and suspense remains the defining trait of the 
best-seller today. A closer look at Alector's dispositio will allow us to 
determine the effect of suspense on moral and philosophical allegory. 

Alector's opening in médias res stages the young Alector engaged in 
hand-to-hand combat against overwhelming odds. But the reader has to wait 
before the circumstances which led up to this point are uncovered: these are 
provided in the form of analepsis only after the young hero is captured, 
imprisoned, and finally unjustly accused of the murder of his beloved Noemi. 
By the time the reader's desire to know how Alector ended up in such a plight 
has been satisfied, a new source of curiosity and anxiety has been set in place: 
will he be found innocent or guilty? This structure is in fact a perfect 
realization of the kind of suspense described by Jacques Amyot in the preface 
to the Histoire aethiopique de Héliodorus (1547). Amyot praises the begin- 
ning in médias res because it immediately throws the reader into a state of 
restless desire, which an ingenious dispositio will prolong until the very end 
of the narrative. The first pages immediately create 

un passioné désir d'entendre le commencement: et toutesfois il [Héliodorus] les tire si 
bien par l'ingénieuse liaison de son conte, que l'on n'est point résolu de ce que l'on 
trouve tout au commencement du premier livre jusques à ce que l'on ayt leu la fin du 
cinqiesme. Et quand on est là venu, encore a l'on plus grande envie de voir la fin, que 
l'on n'avoit au paravant d'en voir le commencement: De sorte que tousjours 
l'entendement demeure suspendu, jusques à ce que l'on vienne à la conclusion, laquelle 

28 

laisse le lecteur satisfait. 

Accordingly, Alector's beginning in médias res creates the reader's desire 
("passioné désir") to know how the young hero came to be standing in the 
middle of a courtyard in the city of Orbe (to remain a mystery until Chapter 
Twenty-One), surrounded by armed men determined either to kill the young 
preux or to take him prisoner. And by the time the reader's curiosity is 
satisfied ("résolu") during the opening statements of Alector's criminal trial, 
a new desire ("grande envie") has already been set in place: "what will the 
final verdict be?" This question will not be answered until the conclusion 
("jusques a ce que l'on vienne à la conclusion"). 



Virginia Krause / The End of Chivalric Romance / 53 



Not only does Aneau use suspense to string his reader along from one 
desire ("désir," "envie") to the next, but he also goes so far as to use 
philosophical inquiry to increase the effect of suspense. After beginning the 
story in médias res and then deferring the outcome of Alector's trial to the 
end, Aneau proceeds to insert what is, in effect, a long discussion of the 
nature of human existence. This discussion thus takes place in the narrative 
space between the young hero's accusation and his acquittal following his 
heroic judicial combat against a dragon. Aneau leaves the reader wondering, 
"will Alector be able to defeat the monstrous serpent, thereby proving his 
innocence?", and then later, "will father and son be reunited?"; and in the 
meantime, Franc-Gal and the Archier engage in an ongoing dialogue, which 
offers the most extended moral and philosophical reflections in Alector. 
Their dialogue is used not only as part of a humanist quest for truth, which 
should be an end unto itself, but also to keep the reader hanging in anticipa- 
tion of the plot's resolution — a very perverse state of affairs. 

This same mechanism is at work in the description of the Utopian city 
of Orbe. Aneau places his exploration of Utopia, a creation dear to the hearts 
of humanists, right before the judicial trial and long-suspended father-son 
reunion. Why here? Aneau could very well have begun Alector with a 
description of the city of Orbe, all the more naturally because this is where 
the action begins. Instead, its position in the dispositio effectively increases 
the reader's anticipation. Placing this description right before the resolution 
of the narrative tension amounts to using it as a period of narrative stasis 
(simply by virtue of its descriptive nature) in order to defer the resolution of 
the narrative action. Indeed, Aneau goes on to admit to having used this 
description as a digression or narrative "extravagance": 

Vela la description de la renommée ville de Orbe, qui a esté icy mise par forme de 
digression, après laquelle extravagance se fault retourner à notre propos, qui estoit du 
combat d' Alector contre le serpent des Arènes, (p. 182) 

Is humanist Utopia, then, merely a "digression" from heroic adventure — the 
true matter at hand? By submitting humanist moral and philosophical 
reflection to dispositio, Aneau heightens the enjoyment of romance. To 
reformulate a metaphor from the time, Aneau has used philosophical 
doctrine, which was considered to have a bitter taste for the uninitiated, as 
a means of making philistine romance seem even sweeter.^^ 

There is thus a fundamental incompatibility between what the explan- 
atory moral discourse promises (teleology) and Aneau's actual narrative 
practice (suspense). Characters and narrator alike never cease to gloss the 



54 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



heroic adventures in Alector, resituating them on a higher moral or philo- 
sophical plane. They promise a firm telos (God, Truth), a vertical allegoriz- 
ing that transcends the literal. Yet the dispositio itself belies these claims, 
since Aneau disrupts the moral, epistemological, and narrative unity of the 
path allegory by introducing deferment and narrative fragmentation — in 
short, suspense, a strictly profane mechanism tending to a desacralization of 
life's paths. The pleasure of suspense derives from the horizontality of 
dispositio, which leads from one adventure to the next, sometimes back 
again, but always on the same narrative plane. Instead of transcending the 
literal by means of allegory, the reader is ultimately carried away by plot, a 
movement that is potentially endless. 

The Myth of Sisyphus: Romance and the Eternal Return 

Endlessness and uselessness are precisely the specters that haunt Aneau's 
generation of romancers. For these writers interested in long narrative 
{grand oeuvre) and in using at least some of the conventions of chivalric 
romance, there was what one might term a crisis of finality. Rabelais 
structures the Quart Livre on an unfulfilled quest — a radical suspension of 
the end. He also invokes the image of a Sisyphus-inspired Diogenes to 
characterize his "wniing persona in the prologue to the Tiers Livre in 1546: 
he first describes all the ways in which Diogenes rolls his tub, then compares 
this tub-rolling to the myth of Sisyphus, recalling how the latter was 
condemned to roll a rock to the top of a mountain and watch it slide back 
down, only to roll it back up again in an eternal cycle of futility. He concludes 
by stating that Sisyphus embodies his own condition as a writer.^ ^ At the time 
of the Tiers Livre, Rabelais found himself writing in the shadow of the Amadis 
paradigm, a fact that may help us to understand why teleology seems to 
preoccupy him more in the third and fourth books than it had in the first two. 

In his eleventh Amadis (privilège 1552), Jacques Gohory also uses the 
Diogenes-Sisyphus figure, which he may very well have borrowed from 
Rabelais. This time the image is invoked in order to represent what learned 
people think of the readers of chivalric or sentimental romance. In the 
opinion of "les gens de meilleur estomac" — that is, those who can digest 
philosophy and history ("la vraye histoire") — reading strictly for the 
pleasure of romance's "joyeux devis" is a "besongne autant oysive, que de 
rouUer le tonneau de Diogenes pour faire plus que rien."^^ 

In both cases, the choice of Diogenes-Sisyphus for an image of the 
writer or reader points to the same problem of finality at stake in Alector. 



Virginia Krause / The End of Chivalric Romance / 55 



What most characterizes the condemnation imposed on Sisyphus is the 
endless frustration of his activity, for he will never accomplish his sole 
purpose yet can only persist. Rabelais and Gohory are in a sense troubled by 
the problem of purposelessness — of circularity — especially since Gohory 
and, to a lesser extent, Rabelais, are both writing within the larger framework 
of a cycle. The circle was traditionally an important pattern, especially in 
medieval romance cycles.^^ However, the cycle's reprise is unlike 
Sisyphus's eternal return, since the former suggests harmony, while the latter 
is the epitome of frustration. 

Several years before A /^cror, Aneau treated the myth of Sisyphus in his 
Picta PoesiSy a book of emblems first written in Latin in 1552 and then, 
during the same year, translated by Aneau himself into French under the title 
of L'Imagination poétique. One of the emblems, entitled "Labeur de la vie 
interminable," depicts Sisyphus.^"^ Aneau first describes Sisyphus as never 
resting ("sans repos"), condemned eternally to 

. . . roller une piere 

Au faist d'un Roc. Qui posée n'est pas: 
Qu'incontinent elle retombe à bas. 
Puys est contrainct derechief devaller. 
Ainsi sans cesse allant, & revenant, 
Est sans repos celle pierre tournant. (Imes 4-9)" 

Like the pilgrim or viator, Sisyphus embodies the human condition: 

Celuy sisyphe, est tout homme mortel. 
Et la pierre, est Labeur perpétuel. 
Dur, à durer iusqu'à mort ordonné. (10-12) 

Of course, unlike Sisyphus, the viator is moving ever nearer to "home," 
increasingly closer to God. There is a comfortable teleology to the pilgrim's 
labors that clearly distinguishes his "restlessness" from Sisyphus's 
ceaseless, but unproductive, activity: 

Puys quand le soir à sa peine joumalle 
Il pense avoir mise une fin fmalle: 
Au lendemain vient à recommencer 
Nouvel labeur, & travail sans cesser. (17-20) 

Eternally in transit, Sisyphus goes nowhere. 

In spite of the emblem's title, "Labeur de la Vie Interminable," the end 
of Sisyphus's labors will eventually arrive. Unlike his classical counterpart, 
who is of course already dead and so condemned to eternal frustration. 



56 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Aneau's Sisyphus will endure his labors only until death: "à durer iusqu'à 
mort ordonné." This detail reinforces the allegorical meaning Aneau gives 
his Sisyphus, who is the personification of the human — mortal — condition. 
However, while Aneau's Sisyphus will perish, nothing apparently leads up 
to this moment. All Sisyphus can do is continue to roll his stone until death 
surprises him. 

In other words, Sisyphus is condemned to a form of serialization. 
Instead of realizing the purpose of his endeavor once and for all, he is obliged 
to begin anew each day — "au lendemain vient à recommencer" — in an 
eternal cycle of sterile repetition based on the suspension of the end. If 
Rabelais and Gohory chose this figure to express their anxiety regarding long 
prose narrative, it is because in the wake of the best-selling Amadis cycle, 
circularity lost the fragile connection to harmony that it had possessed in 
medieval cycles. It is Sisyphus, and not the pilgrim, who speaks most 
eloquently of the true relationship of Renaissance romance to teleology. 

Barthélémy Aneau tries to resist the pull of the Amadis paradigm by 
stating over and over again that the readers and characters of his histoire 
fabuleuse are not like Sisyphus. They are not wasting their time like 
Gohory' s readers of "joyeux devis," themselves errant, lost in the circularity 
of so many exercises in futility. Characters and narrator alike promise that 
secular romance can still be consonant with sacred truths, that the path of 
romance, like the paths of life, remains sacred: a privileged way to knowl- 
edge and even salvation. 

In effect, though, Alector succumbs to the eternal return, the potentially 
endless movement from text to sequel, from the beginning to the end to the 
beginning, and so on. The end of Alector testifies to Aneau's failure to resist 
this movement. Here one discovers that the pilgrim's return to the Creator 
on "the last day of his pilgrimage" is not, strictly speaking, the end of the 
story. Apparently, this moment of high allegory, when the creature returns 
to the Creator, is not sufficient to provide a narrative climax or definitive 
closure. With the narrator's announcement that Alector is "to be continued," 
the reader's desire is once again set into motion. Many "beaux faictz" (p. 
200) await the reader in the next book, including Alector's "faictz et gestes 
heroiques," his trip to Gaule, and the arrival of the so-called "Peregrin 
Pensif." "Tout cecy," states the narrator with the last words of Alector, "sera 
narré en la seconde partie, car icy prent fm la premiere" (ibid.). Like 
Sisyphus, Alector's reader must prepare to begin his labors all over again 
and to follow the journey of a second hero, Alector himself, whose own 



Virginia Krause / The End of Chivalric Romance / 57 



adventures are only just beginning. Driven by desire and not moral purpose, 
Alector's mode of reading forfeits the divine telos which it still claims to 
seek. Pilgrimage allegory is the remnant of a promise that can no longer be 
kept, for suspense thwarts any attempt to transcend the horizontal tug of plot. 

Brown University 



Notes 

1 . My thanks to Ullrich Langer, Marian Rothstein, and the anonymous readers for Renaissance 
and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme for their comments and suggestions regarding 
this essay. 

2. "... choysi moy quelque un de ces beaux vieulx romans Francoys, comme un Lancelot, 
un Tristan, ou autres: & en fay renaître au monde un admirable Iliade & laborieuse Enéide'' 
(Defence et illustration de la langue francoy se, éd. Henri Chamard [Paris: Didier, 1948], 
2. 5. 20-23 [pp. 128-29]). For a discussion of Renaissance classifications of the novel as a 
form of epic, see Marian Rothstein, Reading in the Renaissance: Amadis de Gaule and the 
Lessons of Memory (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1999), pp. 17-31. 

3. For an account of the reception oi Amadis de Gaule, France's first best-seller, see Michel 
Simonin, "La Disgrâce d' Amadis," Studi Francesi 28 (1984): 1-35, and Rothstein. Jodelle 
enumerates the charges against romance in his preface to the Histoire palladienne, Claude 
Colet's translation of a Spanish imitation of the Amadis cycle (Etienne Jodelle, Oeuvres 
complètes, éd. Enea Balmas, vol. 1 [Paris: Gallimard, 1965], pp. 92-97. 

4. Jean-Pierre Gutton, in La Société et les pauvres: L'Exemple de la généralité de Lyon 
1534-1789 (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1970), discusses the proximity of certain trades such 
as colportage to vagabondage in early modem France. Vagabonds attempted to hide their 
true condition under the guise of these trades and sometimes drifted back and forth between 
vagabondage and peddling various wares. 

5. The changing meaning of errer is discussed by Paul Zumthor, La Mesure du monde (Paris: 
Seuil, 1993), p. 206. Patricia Parker studies the multiple connotations and functions of 
errantry in the context of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso in Inescapable Romance: Studies in 
the Poetics of a Mode (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), pp. 16-53. 

6. "Jamais Livre ne fut embrassé avec tant de faveur que cettuy, l'espace de vingt ans ou 
environ" (Etienne Pasquier, Les Recherches de la France, éd. Marie-Luce Demonet et al., 
gen. eds. Marie-Madeleine Fragonard and François Roudaut, 3 vols. [Paris: Champion, 
1996], 2: 1410). 

7. See Simonin. 

8. Jodelle refers to the opinion of "plusieurs espritz" who held romance to be "choses inutiles." 
He himself confesses to having called romance a "perte de temps" (p. 93). 

9. For discussions of the complicated narrative structure of late medieval romance, see 
Douglas Kelly, "Multiple Quests in French Verse Romance: Merveilles de Rigomer and 
Claris et Laris," L'Esprit Créateur 9 (1969): 257-66; Jane H. M. Taylor, "The Fourteenth 
Century: Context, Text and Intertext," in The Legacy of Chrétien de Troyes, ed. Norris J. 



58 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Lacy, Douglas Kelly and Keith Busby, vol. 1 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1987), pp. 267-332; 
and François Suard, Guillaume d'Orange: Etude du roman en prose (Paris: Champion, 
1979). 

10. Jodelle refers to this opinion: "Voire et se trou voient quelques uns entre nous, tant ennemys 
de ceste façon d'historier, qu'ilz disoient n'estre point difficile à un homme, bien né, après 
avoir un peu fantastique, de faire filler en parlant, un.Amadis tout entier, ou quelque autre 
mache-enclume, sans se troubler ny en son discours ny en sa parolle" (p. 93). 

11. See the discussion by Marie-Madeleine Fontaine ("Introduction," Alector ou Le Coq: 
Histoire fabuleuse, by Barthélémy Aneau, éd. Marie-Madeleine Fontaine [Geneva: Droz, 
1996], pp. xl-lxviii) of the histoire fabuleuse, a term also used by other humanists such as 
Gohory and Jodelle (in reference to Colet's Histoire palladienne) to distinguish their 
creations from chivalric romance. The term resonates with Macrobius's narratio fabulosa, 
suggesting a fiction or falsehood (fabula) that is nevertheless useful. It suggests a "lie" (such 
as a myth or an allegory) that also speaks "the truth." All citations oï Alector will be from 
Fontaine's edition; page numbers will be given in the body of the text. 

12. Late medieval romance sometimes exploited the drama of the separation and reunion of 
father and son. One example of this is the fifteenth-century prose romance entitled Histoire 
des seigneurs de Gavre (ed. René Stuip [Paris: Champion; Geneva: Slatkine, 1993]). Like 
Alector, the Seigneurs de Gavre tells of the separation of father and son, who are reunited 
at the end of the romance. Both texts also pretend to tell of the ancestors of a noble family. 
A number of romances from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries fall under the rubric of 
what Georges Duby has termed "genealogical literature." See the latter's Le Chevalier, la 
femme et le prêtre: Le Mariage dans la France féodale (Paris: Seuil, 1981). 

13. Fontaine suggests that Aneau took this Hesiodic motif from Pedro Mexia's Silva de varia 
lecion (1540), translated into French in 1554 by Claude Gruget under the title of Les 
Diverses Leçons de Pierre Messie. 

14. The allegory of the pilgrimage of life had deep roots, from Scripture itself to Guillaume de 
Deguileville's popular Pèlerinage de vie humaine, written during the fourteenth century 
and printed four times between 1485 and 1499. The prologue explains the significance of 
the extended allegory: 'Tous princes princesses et aultres gens habitans sur la terre en 
laquelle comme dit monseigneur sainct pol l'apostre ils nont point de demeure permanent, 
mais ils sont tous et toutes pèlerins et pelerines" (ed. J. J. Stiirzinger, Roxburghe Club, No. 
124 [London: J.B. Nichols, 1893]). 

15. Following Taylor, I borrow this term from V. lA. Propp, Morphologie du conte, trans. 
Claude Ligny (Paris: Gallimard, 1970), 114-15. See Taylor's discussion of the importance 
of this principle for quest and adventure in fourteenth-century romance (pp. 292-97). 

16. ". . . hors la premiere enfance et la puérilité," states Priscaraxe, "et à l'entrée de 
l'adolescence, à un jeune filz, mesmement extraict de bonne race, n'est honneste ny 
expedient de demourer inglorieusement soubz l'aile de la mere, ains plustost suyvre les 
vertueuses traces du père . . . cercher l'immortel honneur par heureuses poursuyctes de 
grandes fortunes et adventures, où les puissances supérieures l'appellent et conduisent" (p. 
126). 

17. See Gerhart Ladner, "Homo Viator: Mediaeval Ideas on Alienation and Order," Speculum 
42 (1967): 233-59. 



Virginia Krause / The End of Chivalric Romance / 59 



18. The motif of the "path of virtue" also appears in more explicitly didactic literature such as 
the so-called Bibles Historiées printed during the first part of the century. The prologue 
explicitly defines the function of the Bible Historiée to be helping us to find "le vray chemin 
de la gloire éternelle" (Bible Historiée [Lyons: Pierre Bailly, 1521 ]). 

19. François Rabelais, Le Tiers Livre, éd. Jean Céard (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, 1995), p. 5. 

20. See Marie-Madeleine Fontaine, ""Alector de Barthélémy Aneau, ou les Aventures du Roman 
après Rabelais," in Mélanges sur la littérature de la Renaissance à la mémoire de V-L 
Saulnier, Travaux d'Humanisme et Renaissance 202 (Geneva: Droz, 1984), pp. 556-67. 

21. Fontaine, in the notes to her edition, has documented the hermetic intertext underlying 
Alector's elaborate system of allegorical correspondences. 

22. On the interplay between fictional and philosophical elements in Béroalde's romances (Les 
Avantures de Floride [1592-96], Voyage des princes fortunez [1610], Le Restablissement 
de Troye [1597], La Pucelle d'Orleans [1599], and L'Histoire d'Herodias [1600]), see Neil 
Kenny, The Palace of Secrets: Béroalde de Verville and Renaissance Conceptions of 
Knowledge (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991). There is, however, an important difference: 
unlike Aneau, Béroalde does not try to couple teleology with romance. Instead, in his Voyage 
des princes fortunez, he privileges romance as quest rather than goal, and as unsystematic 
and fluctuating rather than as an ordered progression. 

23. For a discussion of another humanist recuperation of the romance paradigm, see Ullrich 
Langer, "Humanism's Antidote to Romance: L'amant resuscité de la mort d'amour (1555)" 
in Conjunctures: Medieval Studies in Honor of Douglas Kelly, ed. Keith Busby and Norris 
J. Lacy (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1994), pp. 281-92. Langer argues that Nicolas Denisot 
reforms the sentimental romance in vogue at the time in order to conform to humanist moral 
standards — here, perfect friendship based on virtue. He concludes that Denisot's 

ethical-rational world seems far removed from the fictional world governed by the 
movement of desire, by the sense of frustration and errancy of the chivalric 
romance. ... It also purports to convey knowledge, practical insights and defini- 
tions. In this sense l'amant resuscité de la mort d'amour is a work of humanist 
prudence, and the very fact that it is laboriously written, didactic, and static, makes 
it into the perfect antidote to that entertaining but what many "doctes" perceived 
as entirely useless romance, (pp. 291-92) 

24. Aneau never wrote this second part because he was killed in 1560 during one of the riots 
in Lyons. 

25. See Terence Cave, "'Suspendere animos': pour une histoire de la notion de suspens," in 
Les Commentaires et la naissance de la critique littéraire, ed. Gisèle Mathieu-Castellani 
and Michel Plaisance (Paris: Aux Amateurs de Livres, 1 990), pp. 2 1 1-1 8, and Pré- histoires: 
Textes troublés au seuil de la modernité (Geneva: Droz, 1999), pp. 129-41. 

26. The ability to turn the audience's emotions in any direction is also an effect of oratory, 
beginning with AristoteHan pathos. Du Bellay refers to movere in the following terms in 
his Deffence et illustration de la langue francoyse: "... celuy sera véritablement le poëte 
que je cherche en nostre Langue, qui me fera indigner, apayser, ejouyr, douloir, aymer, hayr, 
admirer, étonner, bref, qui tiendra la bride de mes affections, me tournant ça & la à son 
plaisir" (2. 11. 112-16 [p. 179]). 

27. Cave, p. 213. 



60 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



28. Quoted by Cave, p. 215. Vida makes a similar observation, which Cave paraphrases as 
follows: "...le poète, après une entrée en matière abrupte, doit fournir une exposition 
minutieuse des incidents précédents pour que le lecteur ne reste pas dans l'ignorance" (p. 
212). 

29. In order better to keep the reader in suspense. Vida recommends developing the plot by 
digressions or ambages — sinuous detours and circumlocutions (Cave, p. 212). 

30. In the prologue to the eleventh Amadis, published a few years before Alector, Gohory 
complained that his conflicting readership put him in a double bind: some readers resented 
him for spoiling the pleasant stories with austere "doctrine," while others criticized him for 
spoiling the philosophical meaning with so many bagatelles. He first notes that "le populace 
grossier qui ne presteroit l'oreille à Platon & Aristote, a besoin qu'on luy déguise l'austérité 
de sapience souz quelque miel & douceur de volupté," adding that if the reader in search 
of simple entertainment does not wish to be enlightened, he may simply take the stories and 
leave the philosophy: "Au fort s' ilz ne reçoivent ces raisons en payement, n'ont qu'à prendre 
icy ce que trouveront plus au gré de leur palais délicat, reservans la viande plus forte à gens 
de meilleur estomac. Lesquelz, au contraire, approuveront tant ceste semence de literature, 
qu'ilz blasmeront le reste du ioyeux devis que les premiers louent" (sig. aiiijO- Like Aneau, 
Gohory uses both conventions of chivalric romance and a "higher" meaning — here, 
alchemy (L'Onzième Livre d'Amadis de Gaule, Traduit d'Espagnol en Francoys, Contin- 
uant les Entreprises Chevaleureuses et Aventures estranges, tant de lui que des Princes de 
son Sang . . . [Paris: Estienne Groulleau, 1559]). 

31. Diogenes "le [le tonneau] devalloit de mont à val et proecipitoit par le Cranie, puys de val 
en mont le rapportoit comme Sisyphus faict sa pierre"; Rabelais then compares himself to 
Diogenes-Sisyphus, stating, "je pareillement" (p. 19). On the Diogenic structure of the Tiers 
Livre, see Edwin M. Duval, Design of Rabelais' Tiers Livre de Pantagruel (Geneva: Droz, 
1997). Duval argues that the Tiers Livre is only ostensibly a-teleological. In reality it 
possesses a very clear telos, which does not lie in the circuitous errance of Panurge's quest, 
but rather in Pantagruel 's evangelical lesson on caritas working through beneficence. 

32. Gohory, sig. aiiij^. 

33. It could, however, take the more threatening form of the Wheel of Fortune, the symbol of 
anguish and contingency with which the thirteenth-century Mort Artus concludes. For a 
discussion of medieval conceptions of cyclicity, see Transtextualities: Of Cycles and 
Cyclicity in Medieval French Literature, ed. Sara Sturm-Maddox and Donald Maddox 
(Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1996), particularly 
Michel- André Bossy's "Afterword" (pp. 195-203). 

34. Brigitte Biot characterizes Aneau's book of emblems as having an explicitly moral content 
adapted to a relatively broad public. "Labeur de la vie interminable" sounds a common 
theme in the collection: namely, the necessity of work. See her discussion of Aneau's poetry 
in Barthélémy Aneau, régent de la Renaissance lyonnaise (Paris: Champion, 1996). 

35. L'Imagination poétique (Lyons: Macé Bonhomme, 1552), pp. 104-5. 



Recovering the Curse of 

Eve: John Donne's 

Churching Sermons 



JEFFREY 
JOHNSON 



Résumé: L* office liturgique de relevailles (''Churching of Women after Child- 
birth "), tout en ayant son origine dans les lois de purification détaillées au 
Lévitique 12, s'était néanmoins transformé, à V époque où John Donne servait 
de prêtre, en occasion surtout sociale. Les deux sermons de relevailles de Donne 
qui ont été préservés répondent à cette tendance en situant la pratique dans un 
contexte de repentir collectif En particulier. Donne aligne les relevailles sur le 
sacrement de baptême; dans cette optique, la purification qu 'il prescrit, encore 
que liée au nettoyage corporel, est élargie théologiquement pour illustrer le 
besoin de toute l 'humanité d'être lavée de sa déchéance. 

In accordance with his clerical duties as a priest of the Church of England, 
John Donne performed churching services as specified in the Book of 
Common Prayer. The churching of women, a service of thanksgiving for the 
safe delivery of the mother from the perils of childbirth, was a regular part 
of the liturgical life of the Church. Although the service in the Prayer Book 
is characterized by its simplicity, an array of customs and practices had 
become attached to churching that overemphasized its social function and 
had little to do with the biblical and theological underpinnings for the service. 
It is within this historical context, and the precise cultural tensions arising 
from it, that Donne's extant churching sermons must be placed in order to 
read Donne properly both as a priest and as a religious thinker. 

There is a variety of historical evidence from the late sixteenth and early 
seventeenth centuries indicating the displeasure of some individuals with the 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 2 (1999) /61 



62 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



practice of the churching of women, such as the objections raised by 
dissenting Puritans in An Admonition to the Parliament (1572): 

Churching of women after childbirthe, smelleth of Jewishe purification: theyr other rytes 
and customes in their lying in, & comming to church, is foolishe and superstitious, as it 
is used. She must lie in with a white sheete uppon her bed, and come covered with a 
vayle, as ashamed of some folly. . . . They pray that all men may be saved, & that they 
may be delivered from thundering & tempest, when no danger is nighe. 

As this passage indicates, the complaints during this period focus generally 
on matters of custom that fall outside what is specified in the Prayer Book. 
The wearing of a white veil, in particular, was often insisted on by more 
conservative members of the clergy, and there was even a legal judgment in 
the reign of James I upholding this stricture .^ Additional complaints centered 
on the unscriptural nature of the ceremony and the clergy's demand for 
payment,^ and the judicial records indicate that women were prosecuted for 
the kind of behavior exemplified by one who, according to a brief notice, 
came to be churched "undecently and unwomanly without any woman with 
her.""^ By and large, however, records from the period reveal that the 
overwhelming majority of women complied with and even affirmed the 
practice. For example, Jeremy Boulton's study of the Boroughside district 
of St. Saviour's, Southwark (located on the south bank of the Thames 
between London Bridge and Lambeth Marsh), reveals that upwards of 93% 
of those eligible were churched in a timely manner during the years 
1619-25.^ In addition, the historical work by F. G. Emmison and William 
Coster demonstrates not only that "refusing to go to be churched was not a 
common offence," but also that "the majority of women continued to 
acquiesce in, many actively to support, the ceremony as a social necessity."^ 
Taken together, what the scattered complaints and the widespread 
complicity of the women seem to signal is that by the time of John Donne's 
clerical career, the churching of women had become primarily social in its 
function and practice. Because of the isolation women endured during the 
months prior to and after delivering their children, the churching service had 
taken on the secular taint of something akin to a coming-out celebration, for, 
as Coster argues, "the ceremony of churching was the only means by which, 
after childbirth, a woman could return to the community of the Church, and 
indeed to society in general."^ In spite of the fact that canon law actually 
specified that such isolation was not required, popular practice and belief 
dictated otherwise. Within this historical context, Donne's two extant 
churching sermons, the one for Lady Doncaster (Lucy Percy) and the other 



Jeffrey Johnson / Recovering the Curse of Eve / 63 



for the Countess of Bridge water (Frances Egerton), serve as orthodox 
correctives for recovering the larger theological significance of the church- 
ing service, which had become overshadowed by the social importance 
attached to it. Insofar as these sermons are both extended homilies on the 
doctrine of repentance, Donne seeks to dilate his auditors' understanding of 
churching beyond the strict biblical and liturgical contexts informed by Eve's 
fall and her resultant curse of travail in childbirth. Instead, Donne reads the 
churching of these aristocratic women in terms of the fallen condition of all 
humanity and thereby fulfills his own sense of calling by preaching the 
gospel of repentance. 

There is little doubt that the service for the churching of women, a 
practice carried over from the medieval church, was derived from the Old 
Testament laws of purification for women after childbirth. Leviticus 12 
specifies that a woman was considered unclean for seven days following the 
birth of a male child (fourteen for a female) and continued in "the days of 
her purifying," prohibited from touching anything holy and from entering 
the sanctuary, for another thirty-three days (sixty-six if the child was female). 
After completing this period of purification, the new mother then brought to 
the priest a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a pigeon or turtledove for 
a sin offering, although if she could not afford a lamb, she could bring two 
pigeons or two turtledoves (one for each offering). 

The Church of England Prayer Book service does not directly charac- 
terize the service as one of purification, labeling it instead "The Thanksgiv- 
ing of Women after Childbirth."^ By custom, one undoubtedly influenced by 
the number of days of purification specified in Leviticus, the churching 
occurred roughly one month after the woman had given birth. ^ To begin the 
service, the woman was to kneel "in some convenient place nigh unto the 
place where the table standeth," although by Donne's time there was a pew 
designated for this purpose, ^^ and the priest then expressed to the woman his 
gratitude that God "hath preserved you in the great danger of childbirth."^* 
This pronouncement was followed by a reading of Psalm 121, a reciting of 
the Lord's Prayer, and finally a prayer by the priest, in which he again 
thanked God, who has "delivered this woman thy servant from the great pain 
and peril of childbirth." ^^ The comments on the danger and pain of childbirth 
framing the churching service not only speak to the historical reality of the 
high mortality rate for both children and mothers during this period, but also 
allude to the curse Eve received because of the part she played in the Fall: 
I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring 



(( 



64 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



forth children" (Gen. 3:16). Following the service, the woman was then 
instructed, again with an obvious parallel to the Old Testament laws, to 
provide an offering, which in this case was a monetary one of anywhere from 
4d. to lid., though if the child had died it was typically Id. or 2d.^^ 

In his brief defense of the churching service from his Ecclesiastical 
Polity, Richard Hooker asserts at the outset, "The fruit of mariage is birth, 
and the companion of birth travaile, the griefe whereof being so extreeme, 
and the daunger alwaies so great" that, he continues, "wee can never 
sufficientlie praise [the Lord] nor give him thankes for halfe those benefites 
for which this sacrifice were most due."^^ Further, Hooker specifically 
addresses the one-month period between the birth of the child and the 
churching service and notes, in response to popular belief, ^^ not only that 
canon law prescribes no such period, but, more importantly, that during this 
time of lying-in, the woman "is not barred from thence in such sort as they 
interpret it, nor in respect of anie unholines forbidden entrance into the 
Church" (2: 408 [V.lxxiv.2]). Finally, Hooker defends the offering accom- 
panying the churching of women by explaining that it is "a part of the 
ministers right" and that, "as the life of the clergie is spent in the service of 
God, so it is susteined with his revenue" (2: 409 [V.lxxiv.4]). 

While Donne certainly draws on these biblical and liturgical contexts, 
which emphasize purification and the curse of Eve, he locates these concerns 
within the broader theological scope of the spiritual cleansing that comes 
through repentance, preaching and the Sacraments. The sermon for the 
churching of the Countess of Bridgewater (Frances Egerton), which Simp- 
son and Potter speculate was preached in 1621 or 1623,^^ is actually two 
sermons explicating Micah 2:10 ("Arise and depart, for this is not your rest"). 
Dennis Flynn has recently demonstrated that Donne had known Frances 
Egerton from her early childhood, while he served in the household of Henry 
Stanley, ^^ yet in spite of this long-time association, the first of the two 
sermons is a lengthy and rather impersonal meditation from biblical history 
on the sinful, fallen condition of the Israelites. In their introduction to the 
sermon, Simpson and Potter express their belief that Donne divided what 
was initially one sermon into two only when he had written it out sometime 
after preaching it and, further, that "in the original sermon it is probable that 
the long disquisition on God's judgments on the Jews which occupies most 
of the first of these two sermons was compressed into a few paragraphs, as 
it would be very unsuitable for the churching of any lady" (5: 14). While 
their conjecture that Donne lengthened the original text may be correct, it is 



Jeffrey Johnson / Recovering the Curse of Eve / 65 



unnecessary to dismiss the material from the first of the two sermons simply 
on the grounds of its inappropriateness. Just such an extended recounting of 
human sinfulness speaks directly to Donne's desire to raise this churching 
service above the secular context of the time in order to attend to the 
vocational responsibility he expresses throughout the Sermons of instilling 
genuine contrition in his auditors. 

Donne's initial assertion that "the Gospell is repentance, and remission 
of sinnes" (5: 260) responds, of course, to Luke 24:47 and also echoes 
Calvin's statement that "the sum of the gospel is held to consist in repentance 
and forgiveness of sins."^^ Throughout the Sermons, Donne assumes the 
sinful nature of humankind, but while he acknowledges that all are bom into 
original sin, he reminds his auditors of the continual need both to repent and 
to avoid repeating habitual sins: 

This onely is true Repentance, Plangere & plangenda non committere. To bewayle our 
sins, and forbeare the sins we have bewayled. Neither alone will serve; which deludes 
many. Many thinke they doe enough if they repent, and yet proceed in their sin; and 
many thinke they doe enough, if they forbeare their sin now, though they never repent 
that which is past; both are illusory, both deceitfull distempers. (9: 325) 

This awareness of the fallen human condition and the biblically 
informed necessity of repentance speaks directly to Donne's own acknow- 
ledgement of his clerical responsibility. On 13 October 1622, Donne 
preached at St. Paul's the last of his three sermons on John 1:8 ("He was not 
the light, but came to bear witness to the light"), and in it he asserts in no 
uncertain terms for his auditory the direct commands of God to his ministers: 
"Our Commission is to conform you to him, our Instructions are to doe that, 
that way. By preaching the Baptisme of Repentance, for the remission of 
sinnes'' (4: 229). Donne, however, goes further in this sermon. Beyond his 
obligation to preach, as well as his auditors' to repent, Donne elaborates on 
the notion of witness from his scripture text. In particular, he explains that 
preaching the promises of the gospel and administering the Sacraments that 
seal those promises declare together the truth of Christ in the world, and in 
response to the Word and the Sacraments, he enjoins his congregation, 
"witnesse to others, by thy exemplar life, and holy conversation" (4: 234). 
Eiirlier in the sermon, he summarizes as follows: *This then is the chain; we 
preachy you repent', then we give you the Seals, the Sacraments, and you 
plead them, that is, declare them in a holy life; for, till that (Sanctification) 
come. Preaching, and Repentance, and Seals, are ineffectuall" (4: 230). 



66 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Donne demonstrates his intention to initiate this chain of sanctification 
when he delineates the three-point explication of his scripture text: "The first 
was a Comminatioriy a departing without any Rest, propos 'd to the Jewes; 
The second was a Commonition, a departing into a way towards Rest, 
proposed to repentant sinners; And this third is a Consolation, a departing 
into Rest it selfe, proposed to us, that beleeve a Resurrection" (5: 209). This 
division, tracing as it does the salvific movement from fallenness to confes- 
sion to consolation, articulates the doctrine of repentance as the remedy for 
human sin in general that Donne applies personally to Frances Egerton in 
the opening paragraph of the second sermon, when he writes that the words 
"arise" and "depart" 

admit a just accommodation to this present occasion, God having rais'd his honorable 
servant, and hand-maid here present, to a sense of the Curse, that lyes upon women, for 
the transgression of the first woman, which is painfull, and dangerous Child-birth; and 
given her also, a sense of the last glorious resurrection, in having rais'd her, from that 
Bed of weaknesse, to the ability of coming into his presence, here in his house. (5: 198) 

The obvious allusion here to Genesis 3:16 links the churching of Lady 
Bridgewater, through the reference to the resurrection in the community of 
the Church, not only to Eve and the sufferings of childbirth, but also to the 
genderless curse of original sin. Donne perceives Frances Egerton as a 
microcosm, not simply of the female condition, but more broadly — indeed 
principally — of the human condition, as he spells out later in this second 
part: 

A Christian Mother does not conceive a Christian; onely the Christian Church conceives 
Christian Children. . . . The Parents may be up, and ready, but their issue abed, and in 
their bloud, till Baptisme have wash'd them, and till the spirit of Regeneration have rais'd 
them, from that bed, which the sins of their first Parents have laid them in, and their own 
confinuing sins continued them in. This rising is first, from Originall sin, by baptism, 
and then from actuall sin, best, by withdrawing from the occasions of tentation to future 
sins, after repentance of former. (5: 205) 

Theologically, Donne links the churching of women with baptism in the 
larger context of the doctrine of repentance, which fulfills the regenerative 
needs of all humanity in the publicly administered Ordinances of the Church, 
for the Church alone "conceives Christian Children." 

These same ideas on the doctrine of repentance, along with the associ- 
ation of penitent tears and baptism, are further elaborated in the sermon for 
the churching of Lady Doncaster, which Simpson and Potter date with 
certainty as being preached in December, 1618.^^ The delivery and reception 



Jeffrey Johnson / Recovering the Curse of Eve / 67 



of this sermon must have taken place in an atmosphere of personal sadness. 
For James Hay and Lucy Percy (Viscount and Lady Doncaster), this sadness 
would have resulted from the fact that their son, who was baptized Charles, 
lived only a few days and had been buried in the churchyard of St. Clement 
Danes on 3 December. Donne's own sadness would have stemmed not only 
from sharing in the grief of his friends and patrons, but also, one would 
assume, from recalling his own loss sixteen months prior of his wife Ann, 
who was buried in the same churchyard. 

The biblical text for Lady Doncaster's churching sermon is Canticles 
5:3 ("I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?"), and in its explication 
Donne concentrates on the need for washing — not a physical cleansing, but 
a spiritual purification such as is required of all, initially because of original 
sin and thereafter because of actual sins. In fact, the churching sermon for 
Lady Doncaster, with the motif of water and washing developed from its 
scripture text, touches the association Donne makes throughout the Sermons 
between repentance and tears. To the extent that repentance is an act of 
purification for habitual sins, tears of contrition are for Donne the bodily 
emblem for that spiritual cleansing. Such tears are, he writes, "the 
Ambassadours of sorrow" and "the bloud of a wounded soule" (5: 54), and 
because they testify to the divine promise that the sorrow necessitating them 
will be removed in heaven, Donne exclaims, "You must weepe these teares, 
teares of contrition, teares of mortification, before God will wipe all teares 
from your eyes" (4: 45). 

Tears of contrition are for Donne, most importantly, a theological 
complement to, and a type for, the waters of baptism. "Christ and his 
Apostles," he writes, "had carried two Waters about his Church: The water 
of Baptisme [and] the water of contrite teares, and repentance" (9: 329), and, 
as he specifies in another sermon, "he that comes washed with the water of 
Baptisme in his infancy, and he that comes washed with the teares of 
Repentance in his age, may receive health and cleannesse" (5: 85). There- 
fore, repentance is for Donne "the second Baptism" (10: 1 86), or as he states 
elsewhere, the resurrection from sin "is begun, and well advanced in Baptis- 
mate lachrymarum. In the baptisme of true and repentant teares" (7: 213). 
Noting in yet another sermon that God began the Christian Church with the 
sacramental water of baptism, Donne exhorts his auditors, "Pursue his 
Example; begin thy Regeneration with teares" (9: 291), and in one of his 
christening sermons, he declares that salvation is made sure by water and by 
blood: 



68 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



If thy heart, and bowels have not yet melted in compassion of his passion for thy soule, 
if thine eyes have not yet melted, in teares of repentance and contrition, he is not yet 
come by water into thee; If thou have suffered nothing for sinne, nor found in thy selfe, 
no resistance of Concupiscences, he that comes not to set peace, but to kindle this war, 
is not yet come into thee, by bloud. (5: 137) 

In his churching sermon for Lucy Percy, the washing that Donne 
specifies as "absolutely, generally necessary" is that of baptism, and the 
washing that is "occasionally necessary" from habitual sins occurs in "the 
bloud of our Saviour in the Sacramenf (5: 176). Both are requisite for 
salvation, and both, as communal acts of repentance, must be received in the 
Church, for Donne writes of these two Sacraments, 'Jons in Ecclesia, the 
whole spring, and river is in the Church, there is no haptisme, no hloud of 
Christ, but in the Church" (5: 176). Donne notes further, however, that 
between baptism and the Lord's Supper there is another washing, "the water 
of Contrite, and repentant teares, in opening our selves to God, and shutting 
up of our selves against future tentations" (5: 176). While Donne admits that 
this third type of washing can take place in an act of private repentance, he 
argues strongly for the efficacy of public repentance: "of this water, there is 
Pelvis in Ecclesia, the Bason is in the Church; for our best repentance 
(though this repentance be at home in our owne hearts) doth yet receive a 
Seale, from the absolution of Gods Ministers in the Church" (5: 176). In 
emphasizing conmiunal repentance, Donne comes very near in this passage 
to naming repentance as a sacrament by identifying it as a seal received from 
"Gods Ministers. "2^ As in the sermon for the Countess of Bridgewater, this 
homily for Lady Doncaster is not a simplistic pronouncement of purification 
for and delivery from the pain and danger of childbirth, nor is it a fawning 
celebration for the return to society of this woman of society. Instead, Donne 
calls all those in attendance to a communal participation in the body of 
Christ. Noting the context of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles at the 
Last Supper, Donne states in the sermon for Lucy Percy: 

If we come not to this washing of our feet, this preparatory washing by teares of 
repentance, we can have no part in him, that is, in the participation of his body, and his 
bloud; ... let us often call our selves to account, implore the councell often, often accept 
the absolution of Gods Minister, and often settle our soûles, in a true peace, by a worthy 
receiving of the seale thereof, in the Sacrament. (5: 179) 

In his article examining the churching of women during the English 
Renaissance, William Coster states, "it would be easy to argue that the 



Jeffrey Johnson / Recovering the Curse of Eve / 69 



churching of women was not only religiously offensive, but personally 
insulting to these women /'^^ especially in the light of the forced isolation 
(both from the lying in and during the service itself), the association of the 
pains of childbirth with the curse of Eve, and the implication from the Old 
Testament purification laws of women's bodies as unclean. Certainly, from 
a late twentieth-century perspective this liturgical practice seems offensive 
and insulting. Nevertheless, in reading Donne's Sermons, as Jeanne Shami 
rightly and succinctly argues, "context is all."^^ While Donne's individual 
sermons are too often seen as not "issuing from any specific context — 
generic, historical, theological, political, or cultural," Shami asserts that such 
fragmentary and uncontextualized readings are, more often than not, the 
result of critics seeking "confirmation of Donne's grasping, egotistical 
nature."^^ The churching sermons for Lady Doncaster and the Countess of 
Bridgewater, when properly contextualized, reveal Donne's theological and 
ministerial integrity in the midst of a cultural view of churching as merely 
ceremonial. The purification Donne prescribes in the sermons for these two 
aristocratic women, while associated with the bodily cleansing outlined in 
Leviticus, derives fundamentally from his own sense of calling to preach the 
gospel that is repentance. In these sermons, he enlarges the need for purifi- 
cation to include all of fallen humanity; the churchings of Frances Egerton 
and of Lucy Percy were for him particular occasions that touched the more 
universal condition of human sinfulness. Because of original sin, as well as 
the inevitability of actual sins, birth brings with it death, and as Donne makes 
clear in these churching sermons, the only way to life, the only way to seal 
one's repentance, is through a communal participation in the Word and the 
Sacraments. 

Northern Illinois University 



Notes 

1. W. H. Frere and C. E. Douglas, eds., Puritan Manifestoes: A Study of the Origin of the 
Puritan Revolt (London: S.P.C.K., 1954), pp. 28-29. 

2. See Jeremy Boulton, Neighbourhood and Society: A London Suburb in the Seventeenth 
Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 276, and Keith Thomas, 
Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth 
Century England (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), pp. 59-60. 

3. Cf. Patricia Crawford, Women and Religion in England, J 500-1 720 (London and New 
York: Routledge, 1993), p. 55, and F. G. Emmison, Elizabethan Life: Morals and the Church 
Courts, Elizabethan Life, vol. 2 (Colchester, England: Benham, 1973), pp. 159-61. 



70 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



4. Cited in Emmison, p. 160. 

5. Boulton, pp. 277-78. 

6. Emmison, p. 159; William Coster, "Purity, Profanity, and Puritanism: The Churching of 
Women, 1500-1700," in Women in the Church, Studies in Church History, vol. 27, ed. W. 
J. Shells and Diana Wood (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), p. 386. 

7. Coster, p. 377. 

8. The Book of Common Prayer, 1559: The Elizabethan Prayer Book, ed, John E. Booty 
(Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia for the Folger Shakespeare Library, 1976), p. 
314. 

9. See Boulton, p. 278, and Coster, pp. 380, 385-86. 

10. Coster, pp. 382-83. 

1 1. The Book of Common Prayer, 1559, p. 3 14. 

12. //7w/.,p. 315. 

13. See Boulton, p. 277, and Christopher Hill, Economic Problems of the Church: From 
Archbishop Whitgift to the Long Parliament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1956), p. 168. 

14. Richard Hooker, The Folger Library Edition of the Works of Richard Hooker, gen. ed. W. 
Speed Hill, 5 vols. (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1977), 2: 406, 407 (V.lxxiv.l). Subsequent 
references will be incorporated parenthetically in the text. 

15. Boulton notes that "associated with the element of purification ran a strong popular belief 
that women who died in childbed before being churched could not be given Christian burial" 
(p. 276). Further, Thomas recounts that "even at the end of the seventeenth century it was 
reported from parts of Wales that 'the ordinary women are hardly brought to look upon 
churching otherwise than as a charm to prevent witchcraft, and think that grass will hardly 
ever grow where they tread before they are churched'" (p. 39). 

16. John Donne, Sermons, ed. G. R. Potter and Evelyn M. Simpson, 10 vols. (Berkeley: 
University of California Press, 1953-62), 5: 184-97 (Sermon No. 9). (This edition is used 
for citations, with volume and page numbers supplied parenthetically in the text.) In their 
introduction to this sermon, Simpson and Potter conjecture that although the Countess of 
Bridgewater had fifteen children, this sermon very likely "was preached after the birth of 
an heir, for most of the children were daughters" (5: 14). They then note a letter from 
Chamberlain, dated 2 June 1621, recording the birth of a son, who, unfortunately, died early 
in 1623; however, Chamberlain also records that the Countess was pregnant at this time and 
that two months later, in June, she gave birth to another son, John, "who survived his father 
and became the second Earl of Bridgewater" (ibid.). 

17. Dennis Flynn, John Donne and the Ancient Catholic Nobility (Bloomington: Indiana 
University Press, 1995), pp. 172, 177. 

18. Jean Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis 
Battles etal.. Library of Christian Classics, vols. 20-21, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Westminster 
Press, [I960]), 1: 592 (Ill.iii.l). 

19. Donne's language here is similar to that of Hooker, who explains that repentance is "a vertue, 
that hateth, bewayleth, and sheweth a purpose to amend sinne" (3: 12 [VI.iii.5]). 



Jeffrey Johnson / Recovering the Curse of Eve / 71 



20. In their introduction to this sermon, Simpson and Potter note that "the register of baptisms 
at St. Clement Danes Church, London, records for November 27, 1618, 'Charles Hay, Sonne 
to the Lord Hay, Viscount Doncaster, baptised in Essex House'" (5: 1 2) and comment further 
that this was the only child Lady Doncaster, who was then nineteen, would bear. 

21. See Calvin, who defines a sacrament as "a seal by which God's covenant, or promise, is 
sealed" (2: 1450 [IV.xix.2]). The point here is that penitence is a Roman CathoHc sacrament, 
as affirmed by the Council of Trent, and thus Donne seems to blur the doctrinal distinctions 
between Roman Catholicism and orthodox Protestantism. 

22. Coster, p. 386. 

23. Jeanne Shami, "The Absolutist Polifics of Quotation," in John Donne 's Religious Imagina- 
tion: Essays in Honor of John T. Shawcross, ed. Raymond- Jean Frontain and Frances M. 
Malpezzi (Conway: University of Central Arkansas Press, 1995), p. 383. 

24. Ibid., pp. 383, 389. 



Reviews 
Comptes rendus 



Alfredo Périfano. L'Alchimie à la cour de Corne F^ de Médicis. Études et Essais 
de la Renaissance. Paris, Champion, 1997. Pp. 248; appendices, bibliographie, 
index des noms. 

Le titre de cet ouvrage en donne le programme, la culture et le savoir (en particulier 
l'alchimie) au service du Prince italien. Come l^*"; y est proposée une synthèse sur 
la culture italienne au cours du XVP siècle. Nous sonmies conscients que les réalités 
historiques ne sont certes pas réductibles à la seule culture et à la seule activité 
alchimique du Prince dont témoignent les nombreux ouvrages qui lui sont dédiés. 

Ainsi, l'alchimie est replacée dans un contexte florentin, dans la tradition des 
Médicis. L'on connaît les réalisations de Come en dix années; il fonde un régime 
moderne où la culture est au service de l'État. L'Académie Florentine accueille 
aussi bien les hommes de lettres que les hommes de gouvernement et les ecclé- 
siastiques. L'Université de Pise est développée. La langue toscane s'impose dans 
le pays et en Europe. Plus sensible aux sciences et aux techniques. Come s'inté- 
resse à l'alchimie, à la métallurgie et à la pharmacopée médicale. 

Le statut difficile de l'alchimie, avec sa place parmi les autres activités 
scientifiques contrôlées par le gouvernement, est étudié dans ses rapports féconds 
avec les aspects de la culture de la Renaissance. Les recherches dans les locaux de 
La Fonderia sont décrites, avec les expériences privées et leurs retombées publi- 
ques. Les activités alchimiques signifient, dans le réseau symbolique autour du 
prince idéal, que Come est médecin (les Médicis sont médecins) et philosophe 
médiateur oeuvrant pour la santé et le salut de son peuple. C'est une image 
façonnée par lui avec l'aide des intellectuels de sa cour. 

Périfano, dans son ouvrage, contribue largement à la connaissance de l'his- 
toire de la culture de la Renaissance, de la politique culturelle et de l'emblématique 
médicéenne à partir d'ouvrages dédiés à Corne, peu connus ou inédits, ce qui 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 2 (1999) /73 



74 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



permet en outre de suivre les développements de l'alchimie au XVP. Y sont étudiés 
les aspects de l'alchimie italienne à la Renaissance. L'art transmutatoire, par 
analogie entre la lèpre des métaux imparfaits et la maladie des hommes, se 
consacre à la recherche de 1' elixir, médecine universelle des hommes et des 
métaux. Aussi une théorie de la matière s'intéresse-t-elle aux transformations des 
substances par vim artificii et à une pratique de laboratoire. Lorsque l'alchimiste 
choisit de se situer au centre du processus de transformation, il se place dans le 
cours d'une quête; la purification de la matière correspond à son propre affinement 
moral et intellectuel. Toutes ces directions d'investigation peuvent se développer 
de manière autonome ou s'entremêler, comme c'est souvent le cas, débordant dans 
d'autres secteurs du savoir comme la médecine, la philosophie naturelle ou la 
spéculation mystique. Dans le cadre du débat au XVP siècle sur le concept de 
nature et d'artifice qui traverse tous les domaines de la culture de la Renaissance, 
l'alchimie suscite l'intérêt le plus varié. L'alchimie italienne constitue un domaine 
bien établi. Périfano commente les auteurs connus médiévaux, comme Roger 
Bacon, Geber, Arnaud de Villeneuve, Albert le Grand, et les pseudépigraphes 
Hermès Trismégiste, Aristote, Aristeus, Thomas d'Aquin, Raymond Lulle. L'al- 
chimie arabe, parvenue par l'Espagne et la Sicile, est déjà assimilée au XIP siècle. 
Pour la Renaissance, il commente les textes des alchimistes grecs (qui précèdent 
et influencent les textes arabes) connus par le travail des humanistes, partiellement 
traduits et édités en 1512. C'est à ce moment, en effet, que peut se faire la lecture 
humaniste des textes grecs et l'inteprétation des textes médiévaux. Ainsi Janus 
Lacinius, calabrais, édite et publie (1546) la Pretiosa Margarita novella de Pietro 
Bono de Ferrare. Le nouveau contexte du savoir est souligné. L'alchimie en Italie 
revêt des caractéristiques propres et prend des directions nouvelles à cause de 
l'intérêt que les alchimistes apportent à la kabbale (Giovanni Agostino Panteo: Ars 
transmutationis Metallicae [1518] et surtout sa Voarchadumia Contra alchimiam 
[1530], art libéral ou kabbale des métaux). 

Dans les milieux florentins l'alchimie connaît un accueil fort favorable. 
Périfano étudie dans le chapitre 2, fondamental à sa thèse, une liste importante de 
témoignages, d'ambassadeurs, de médecins. Come est décrit comme un alchimiste 
du temps, mieux un Esculape dont les connaissances étaient infinies pour les 
herbes et plantes et les simples, pour les secrets merveilleux de la nature, pour la 
recherche concernant les métaux. Ses pratiques de distillation sont fameuses. 
L'ouvrage de G. Targioni Tozzetti témoigne de chimistes, d'ouvriers, d'expé- 
riences de transformation, de contrat et de paiement des mêmes expériences et de 
cahiers de recettes de Come lui-même. Nicolas Guibert (traducteur de Paracelse) 
fournit une richesse de détails sur les milieux alchimistes italiens où travaillent 
Come et son fils. Ainsi Come, habile manipulateur des substances à La Fonderia, 
ne pratique l'alchimie que pour en faire un sujet de réflexion, ce que prouvent les 
manuscrits provenant de l'entourage de Come, ainsi que la dédicace d'un ouvrage 
imprimé que Périfano a minutieusement examinés. 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 75 



L'analyse de ces écrits se poursuit au chapitre 3. Varchi, aristotélicien et 
averroiste, essaie de prouver la "possibilité"/ T "impossibilité" de l'alchimie en 
prenant pour point de départ les Météorologiques, De la Génération et de la 
Corruption, la Métaphysique. Les auctoritates (anciennes et modernes) sont prises 
en compte ou réfutées, qu'il soit question de fausse ou de vraie alchimie: la "vraie" 
est étudiée et pratiquée par les philosophes; la "sophistique" est dite "très ingé- 
nieuse" si elle est développée dans le bon sens; mais elle peut être nuisible et ses 
pratiquants peuvent s'exposer aux rigueurs de la loi, comme faussaires et fabri- 
cants de poisons; la fausse se trouve très proche de la nécromancie, car elle promet 
de surmonter et de vaincre la nature. Pour Varchi, l'alchimie est possible dans le 
cadre théorique à définir. 

L'alchimie en tant que savoir "transversal," science des philosophes pratiquée 
par les Anciens qui en connaissaient les secrets, se voit attribuer une dimension 
nouvelle et remplir un rôle à jouer dans la formation de l'image du Prince. 
Alchimiste et philosophe, il devient prince "total" s' occupant du salut de son 
peuple de tous les points de vue possibles. Come peut cultiver, grâce à sa Fonderia, 
cette image du Prince Philosophe initié aux secrets de la nature (il envoyait à tous 
les princes d'Europe les médicaments qu'il y produisait). 

Le grand et fameux athanor, La Fonderia, lieu déterminé architecturalement, 
identifiable par ses fumées, mais non accessible, occupe une place au coeur même 
de la concrétisation physique du pouvoir: au Palais puis dans les jardins de Boboli, 
La Fonderia remplit un espace mais en même temps elle crée un vide autour d'elle, 
car c'est un lieu secret. Elle devient un leurre pour les sujets. Elle continuera d'être 
un lieu privilégié des expérimentations pratiques de François, fils de Come et 
deuxième grand-duc de Toscane. Dans un contexte culturel oîj la sensibilité 
maniériste affirme son goût pour le merveilleux, François en accentue encore le 
caractère opératoire. Plus tard, la tradition se perpétuera avec don Antonio de 
Médicis, fils présumé de François F** et de Bianca Capello. 

Le lecteur peut à loisir prendre connaissance de tous ces détails, en lisant les 
appendices abondants qui offrent des textes rares, inédits et extrêmement intéres- 
sants pour la connaissance d'une pratique fort peu documentée en réalité. Si les 
textes alchimiques prolifèrent, la réflexion immédiate, contemporaine des opéra- 
tions, est rare. Cette lacune est comblée, pour ce qui est de la cour italienne, par 
l'excellente étude proposée par Alfredo Périfano. 



ILANA ZINGUER, Université de Haifa 



76 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Edward Muir. Ritual in Early Modem Europe. New York and Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 1997. Pp. xii, 291. 

This is an ambitious, entertaining, and well-written, but nevertheless somewhat 
puzzling book. The author seeks to illustrate and analyze the process by which what 
were seen as powerful invocations of the divine in the Middle Ages were trans- 
formed into "mere" or "empty" ritual by the end of the eighteenth century. Rather 
than an original investigation of archival sources, it is a survey of the literature on 
ritual theory, and of published primary and secondary sources. (This is, indeed, in 
keeping with the stated mission of the series, New Approaches to European History, 
of which this book is a part.) 

The book is divided into four parts. Part One, entitled, "The Ritual Moment," 
is largely expository and deals with rituals marking the individual's passage from 
one social state to another, and with those marking the passage of time. Chapter 
One, "The Rites of Passage," is largely an application of Van Gennep's tripartite 
schema of rituals — separation (preliminary), transition (liminary), and incorpo- 
ration (postliminary) — to the rituals which demarcated the stages of life in early 
modern Europe: birth and baptism, marriage, and death. It ends with the observa- 
tion that Luther's protest against the enormous ritual superstructure which sur- 
rounded death "opened the way for a systematic re-examination of the role of 
ritual" (p. 52). The next chapter does much the same for the rituals which marked 
the passing of the year and the seasons, and examines the role of ritual in the 
passing of time at four different levels: the liturgical year and seasons of the 
Church, the week, the day, and the hour. 

Part Two, entitled "Rituals of the Body," adopts as a guiding metaphor the 
conflict between Carnival and Lent, as illustrated in Brueghel's painting and 
expounded by Peter Burke in Popular Culture in Early Modem Europe. Rituals of 
the lower body, emphasizing appetites and abandon, are presented largely through 
the lens of Carnival and the carnivalesque, but also take in charivari and rites of 
violence, including witch-trials and the punishment of the accused. In the early 
modern period, secular and religious elites sought to tame these rituals of licence 
through the inculcation of manners and reform of popular culture, and in general 
by subordinating the lower body to the upper. This subordination, this repression 
of emotions and appetites, "occurred primarily through a debate about ritual. The 
rituals associated with the human body and its physical capacities to eat, make 
love, and fight linked self-control with social control, creating a new world in 
which personal comportment of men and women internalized the external coercive 
authorities of reformed religion and absolutist states" (p. 144). 

Part Three, "Ritual and Representation," explores the process by which elites 
came to empty ritual of its powerful capacity of presenting — presenting the body 
of Christ or the community, for example. Ritual was now analyzed for its efficacy 
and became a means of re-presenting or re-creating, rather than presenting or 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 77 



creating. This process took shape primarily in the Reformation debate about the 
Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and was driven by the humanist and 
Protestant critique of the crypto-materialism of late medieval religious ritual. 
Despite their attacks on Catholic ritual, Protestants nevertheless had to invent or 
adapt rituals of their own; thus, much of Protestant anti-ritual activity itself took 
on ritualized forms, as for example in iconoclasm. Catholic and Orthodox churches 
also participated in this reformation of ritual, though in more ambiguous ways. 

Chapter Seven, "Government as a Ritual Process," examines the evolution of 
political ritual through the lens of the transition from presentation to representa- 
tion. Here, the inherent ambiguity in ritual is most evident. Political rituals, 
whether they embody civic solidarity or royal power, strive both to display and to 
create the desired effect. That is, in displaying the harmony of the community or 
the power of the king, these rituals also seek to bring it about. They "both imagined 
what might be and displayed what really was" (p. 262). Throughout the early 
modern period, what happened in the realm of religious ritual was also evident in 
the political realm: rituals such as coronations or royal funerals no longer created 
royal power or ensured its continuity as much as they re-presented something 
which had already happened. 

The Epilogue restates the major theme of the book: that by the eighteenth 
century, ritual had been emptied of much of its powerful emotive content; that is, 
it had become "mere" ritual "as a consequence of the ritual disputes of the early 
modern period" (p. 270). We are thus left with an ambiguous modern attitude 
towards ritual: we cannot live without it, yet the constant need to unravel its 
meaning is self-nullifying. Ritual has obviously not been abolished, but rather 
displaced into rituals celebrating patriotism, spectator sports, and even celebrity 
itself: "The modern muddle about ritual is a legacy of the ritual revolution of the 
sixteenth century, which shifted attention from the emotive power of rituals to 
questions about their meaning. The modem attitude perpetuates a misunderstand- 
ing that ritual must be interpreted, its hidden meanings ferreted out, when what 
rituals do is not so much mean as emote" (p. 274). 

Despite its intriguing observations and wide scope, this book remains some- 
what puzzling for two principal reasons. First, and most importantly, throughout 
most of the book, the author seems torn between describing the ritual life of early 
modern Europe and exploring the transformation of ritual. Granted, one cannot 
analyze a transition without some reference to the thing being transformed, but 
very often, the major themes of the book are lost in descriptive detail. A clearer 
focus on the transformation of ritual would have been desirable. Secondly, and less 
importantly, the scholarly apparatus of references is frustrating, to say the least. 
Each chapter ends with a bibliography, with works especially useful for those new 
to the field clearly marked. But the footnoting system seems haphazard and is 
likely to frustrate anyone trying to explore these issues further. Direct quotations 
from primary sources are usually footnoted, but those from secondary sources only 



78 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



occasionally. Thus, even though one may have a bibliographical entry for a 
particular quotation or observation, one is often left completely at sea in trying to 
track down its precise source. Ritual in Early Modern Europe is a useful, com- 
prehensive, and entertaining introduction to the subject; however, its lack of focus 
and lapses into description for its own sake will frustrate students, and its haphaz- 
ard footnoting will frustrate scholars and specialists. 

MARK W. KONNERT, University of Calgary 



Maurice Scève. The Entry of Henri II into Lyon: September 1548. A Facsimile 
with an Introduction by Richard Cooper. Tempe, AZ, Medieval and Renaissance 
Texts and Studies, 1997. Pp. vi, 326. 

On ne peut qu'applaudir à la publication d'édition de textes anciens. La relation de 
l'entrée royale au XVP siècle, siècle par excellence de ce genre de cérémonie 
rituelle, reste une oeuvre collective relatant un spectacle total auquel collaborent 
tous les citadins: bourgeois et ecclésiastiques, artisans et notables, ainsi que les 
confréries locales et étrangères et les enfants. Cette édition de Richard Cooper est 
essentielle pour la compréhension de la société et pour l'histoire des mentalités, car 
les relations d'entrée royale dépassent l'inscription de l'événement ou la simple 
chronique. Dans le cas de celle d'Henri II à Lyon en 1548, elle parle de la société 
lyonnaise, de sa composition et de sa hiérarchisation, des pratiques culturelles dans 
l'espace de la ville en fête, nuée et barriolée d'antiquités romaines et ornée 
d'allégories mythologiques. Cet ouvrage est d'autant plus intéressant et précieux 
qu'il est précédé d'une introduction détaillée et complète. 

La présentation de Cooper renferme une analyse très fine de l'entrée de 
Maurice Scève, humaniste lyonnais, mais aussi une contextualisation de cette 
relation et une inscription dans l'évolution et la continuité de ce genre de spectacle. 
Et pour un critique du XX® siècle, cette partie est des plus utiles. L'introduction 
substantielle de Cooper établit un lien avec les entrées précédentes (sources de 
celles-ci) et avec le voyage d'Henri II dans les provinces françaises. Une bibliog- 
raphie minutieusement élaborée accompagne cette édition. L'introduction de Co- 
oper suit une logique incontestable: les entrées du roi et de la reine à Lyon, 
l'itinéraire royal, les préparatifs de l'entrée qui mettent en valeur les artisans 
locaux, la parade du dimanche, la colonie italienne, l'archevêché, l'architecture et 
l'iconologie, les inscriptions, les pièces et les divertissements. 

Outre l'introduction de quelque cent cinquante pages, la bibliographie et 
r iconographie de Lyon, on trouve les fac-similés précieux pour les chercheurs: 
\)La Magnificence de la superbe et triumphante entrée de la noble et antique cité de Lyon 
faicte au Treschrestien Roy de France Henry deuxiesme de ce nom, et à la Royne Catherine 
son Espouse, le xxiii de Septembre M.D.XLVIII (texte de Maurice Scève). 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 79 



2) Particolare descrittione delta Comediafatta recitare in Lione la Natione Fiorentina a 
richiesta di sua Maestà Chistianissima. 

3) Le grand triumphe faict à l'entrée du Treschretien et tousiours victorieux Monarche, 
Henry second de ce nom, Roy de France, en sa noble ville et cité de Lyon. Et de la Royne 
Catherine son espouse. 

De plus, des appendices contiennent les manuscrits de Giorgio Conegrani, Giulio 
Alvarotto, Francesco Giustiniano, Bartolommeo Panciatichi et Jean Guéraud, ainsi 
que l'imprimé de Denis Sauvage. Le grand triumphe, relation anonyme qui date de 
1548, est reproduite à la suite de la comédie italienne, La Calandra de Bibbiena, 
embellie d'intermèdes de G. B. Strozzi et jouée par la colonie florentine. La dépêche 
(du 4 octobre 1548) de Conegrani, duc de Mantoue, complète les appendices. Tous 
ces textes afférents permettent de comparer, de confirmer ou de rectifier certaines 
allégations et quantifications de Maurice Scève. 

Dans ce livre passionnant. Cooper prend le soin d'éditer les textes périphéri- 
ques rédigés par des témoins oculaires ou des contemporains diplomates ou 
historiens. Une entrée royale à la Renaissance s'échelonne sur plusieurs jours. Ici, 
il s'agit d'une semaine de festivités. Cooper a judicieusement choisi de respecter 
la chronologie événementielle adoptée par Scève. Du dimanche au dimanche, 
l'entrée d'Henri II, l'entrée de Catherine de Médicis le lendemain (bien que 
somptuaire, cette cérémonie a eu moins de succès que celle de la veille), les sports 
nautiques le mardi (Scève n'en parle pratiquement pas dans sa relation), le repas 
et le tennis le mercredi, le théâtre italien le mercredi ou jeudi, la naumachie le 
jeudi, la fête de Saint-Michel du vendredi au dimanche. Pour ces festivités du 23 
au 30 septembre 1548, qui semblent réunir tous les citadins et aplanir les rivalités 
quotidiennes le temps de la fête, le consulat lyonnais accepte de s'endetter et des 
divergences apparaissent dans l'ordre hiérarchique du cortège, auquel les Génois 
ne participent pas. Porte d'entrée de l'Italie, Lyon, ville prospère, est un lieu de 
passage où se sont établies des colonies étrangères des Lucquois, Génois, Floren- 
tins et Milanais ou Allemands, qui sont soit marchands soit banquiers. 

Cette entrée s'inscrit dans les quatre années où le roi Henri II a pris le pouvoir. 
Il est couronné à Reims en avril 1547, il entre à Tours et à Orléans en 1551, et 
durant cette période le roi fait des douzaines d'entrées. Il inspecte les frontières 
de son royaume, se montre à son peuple et, en retour, les villes témoignent de leur 
loyauté envers le roi et représentent leur fierté civique dans la démonstration 
triomphale de l'entrée. En 1548, Henri II entre à Lyon, la ville jure alors fidélité 
à la couronne et demande le renouvellement de ses privilèges. Le roi retrouve la 
reine, la cour et une partie de l'administration le 23 septembre après avoir fait un 
tour de six semaines en Savoie, au Piémond, dans le Dauphiné et à Grenoble. 
L'entrée, retardée à plusieurs reprises, a permis la réalisation complète des archi- 
tectures et des décorations de la ville et, même, la construction d'un nouveau jeu 
de paume. Maurice Scève, chargé de la conception de la fête, est aidé d'une équipe 



80 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



d'humanistes: Barthélémy Aneau, Guillaume Du Choul et, peut-être, Claude de 
Taillemont. Bernard Salomon en a fait les peintures. 

Pour l'occasion, Lyon est métamorphosée en ville romaine de Lugdunum, où 
surgissent huit échafauds ou architectures éphémères, couvertes d'inscriptions, 
dont les niches sont occupées par des statues de dieux ou de héros. Les rues de la 
ville sont richement décorées et des tableaux vivants y sont joués. Cooper prend 
soin de montrer avec précision l'évolution de ces architectures et celle de leur 
programme iconologique. La première architecture, un obélisque, rappelle l'entrée 
d'Eléonore en 1533, où apparaît le premier obélisque sur lequel est inscrite une 
ystoirQ. La seconde architecture dont l'entablement fait surgir plusieurs interpré- 
tations est conservée et réutilisée pour l'entrée du gouverneur Jacques de Saint- 
André en 1550. UArc du Boug Neuf est doublé d'une achitecture éphémère (en 
planches de bois), similaire à la porte, mais plus magnifique. Elle comprend des 
niches et trois figures. Devant cette porte, on joue un long mystère. Le Trophée au 
Griffon comprend une colonne de la Victoire au pied de laquelle se trouvent les 
figures du Temps et de la Renommée, inspirées des Triomphes de Pétrarque et des 
allégories du Songe de Poliphile de Colonna. Cette colonne est flanquée de deux 
statues en bois: l'Immortalité au milieu de livres et d'armes et la Vertu au milieu 
de choses temporelles: châteaux, couronnes, sceptres. Le Double Arc de Saint- Paul 
laisse voir la confluence de la Saône (d'où coule le vin rouge) et du Rhône (d'où 
coule le vin blanc). Les statues de ces deux rivières sont inspirées de celles du Nil 
et du Tibre, au Vatican. A VArc de l'Honneur et de la Vertu à Saint Eloy, c'est une 
architecture composite surmontée d'une plateforme sur laquelle se trouve un 
belvédère. II est praticable; en effet, des comédiens apparaissent à la balustrade. 
Une frise d'éléphants rappelle le voyage d'Alexandre en Inde, mais elle représente 
aussi César. La Perspective du Change, centre commercial de Lyon, reprend une 
mise en scène serlienne en trompe-l'oeil avec le temple de Mercure dans le fond. 
Scève parle du théâtre qui se passe à Troie, mais rien sur la scène ne porte les 
caractéristiques de Troie. Dans la rue Saint- Jean en se rapprochant de la cathédrale, 
il y a trois décorations. Enfin, VArc du Porte-froc n'est pas construit par la 
municipalité, mais par les autorités ecclésiastiques. Hyppolite d'Esté est archevê- 
que de Lyon. D'ailleurs, il est difficile de réconcilier les deux descriptions trop 
différentes. 

Les inscriptions du trio Scève, Du Choul et Aneau embellissent les architec- 
tures; les unes sont tirées soit d'autorités latines — Virgile y tient la palme avec 
V Enéide — soit d'inscriptions numismatiques, les autres sont des imitations ou 
des inventions versifiées des concepteurs de la fête. Cette relation d'entrée royale 
de Scève est une somme de textes et d'images-palimpsestes, mise en valeur et très 
justement éclairée par Cooper. Les architectures et l'iconographie sont minutieu- 
sement détaillées et comparées; pour certaines architectures, trois descriptions 
sont à comparer: celles du livret de Scève, de la dépêche de Conegrani et de la 
gravure sur bois de Salomon. 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 81 



Après les entrées du roi et de la reine, il y a eu deux rencontres entre le conseil 
du roi et les représentants de la ville pour discuter des difficultés financières de 
Lyon et des répercussions diplomatiques et militaires après la visite royale au 
Piémond. Le mardi fut destiné aux jeux nautiques, qu'Henri II apprécie, et à la 
remise de deux sculptures en or, réalisées par l'orfèvre Jehan Delabarre et dessi- 
nées par Bernard Salomon d'une valeur totale de mille trois cents ecus. Le montant 
est chiffré exactement, mais il est bien moindre que celui des cadeaux faits à Paris. 
Ces précisions sont importantes; elles témoignent de la volonté de la ville de faire 
connaître la valeur exacte des cadeaux: signe de richesse et de prospérité pour la 
ville, ainsi qu'un signe de fierté; c'est aussi une valeur de négociation et d'affir- 
mation d'une ville fidèle au roi. La reine reçoit un deuxième cadeau, une fleur de 
lys (symbole de la France et de Rorence) en or de cinquante centimètres de haut. 
Le banquet est offert par Hyppolite d'Esté dans la Maison de Rontalon, propriété 
de l'archevêque. Puis ont lieu la visite du nouveau jeu de paume, à l'heure du thé, 
une promenade sur l'eau, le dîner à l'Archevêché et le théâtre italien. 

En 1622, l'entrée de Louis XIII changera de circuit et se prolongera dans 
l'espace et dans le temps. Ces relations d'entrée, intéressantes en elles-mêmes, 
acquièrent tout leur sens lorsqu'elles sont lues en série. Et Richard Cooper réussit 
très bien à mettre en perspective cette entrée d'Henri II de Maurice Scève. 

MARIE-FRANCE WAGNER, Université Concordia (Montréal) 



Ellen E. Kittell and Thomas F. Madden, eds. Medieval and Renaissance Venice. 
Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1999. Pp. viii, 345. 

Donald M. Queller, to whom this collection of papers is dedicated, died in 1995. 
Though unconventional and often a revisionist among Venetian scholars, for forty 
years he guided students and colleagues alike to new understandings of La 
Serenissima's mysteries and the clues she dangled. These essays reflect a broad 
range of recent trends in late medieval and early modern Italian scholarship by 
Anglophone researchers. This, of course, means that there is little room for "the 
great sweep of political events" (p. 1). Rather, micro-history, social history and 
narrowly focused economic history dominate. Whatever one thinks of these con- 
temporary emphases, the pieces are sound, and each echoes some particular interest 
of Queller, though there is no attempt at an overall integration. Although as a 
collection its appeal is to specialists, the individual essays should find a broader 
audience, thanks to their range of subject matter and uniformly high quality. 

The volume opens with a short study of Domenico Gradenigo by Louise 
Buenger Robbert of the University of Missouri. She sketches this businessman*s 
long career from his active participation in long-distance trade — thirteen voyages 
from 1205 to 1226 — to his more sedentary role as family property manager. Like 



82 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



the more famous Tuscan Francesco Datini, he had no active political inolvement, 
but his otherwise typical pattern of life helps the non-specialist reach beneath 
grand generalizations about the merchant class. 

Alan Stahl of the American Numismatic Society, David Jacoby of Hebrew 
University, and Juergen Schulz, retired from Brown University, each contribute a 
very narrow study of economic life and its consequences. Stahl presents a useful 
description of the introduction of the Venetian grosso under Enrico Dandolo in the 
late twelfth century, and clearly explains why and how this bridge between 
Byzantium and western Europe developed the medieval west's finest and first 
multiple denomination coinage. Some of these grossi may have been spent on the 
Cretan cheeses studied by Jacoby. While the luxury trade dominated traditional 
economic studies, raw materials and basic foodstuffs now enjoy the spotlight. The 
omnipresence of cheese in the Venetian diet accounts for the variety of sources to 
which Jacoby resorts. His is a concise overview of types, production, and patterns 
of shipment. After Venice conquered Crete in the early thirteenth century, the state 
stepped in to supervise the commercial production of this most rustic product. 
Schulz returns us to Venice itself for a brief sketch of the family de'Musto and its 
Veneto-Byzantine palazzo, the Ca' da Mosto. 

Thomas Madden of St. Louis University takes a new look at Venice's hostage 
crisis of 1171-82, when Manuel Comnenus imprisoned all Venetians in the 
Empire. Madden reinterprets the Venetian alliance with William II of Sicily as a 
matter of leverage rather than hostility, and rejects any notion of a general release 
earlier than 1 1 82. In an instructive essay, A. J. Andrea of the University of Vermont 
and J. C. Moore, late of Hofstra University, argue over the dating of Innocent Ill's 
Reg. 6:102, which they print here in English. Though this is a work in progress, it 
is interesting to watch scholarly consensus being tried and tested. 

In 1993, Queller and Madden wrote "Father of the Bride," in which they 
demonstrated that Venetian fathers recognized a standard dowry of 1000 ducats in 
the later Trecento. Here Stanley Chojnacki respectfully brings a wide variety of 
sources to bear in showing a far wider range of actual dowry values, augmented 
by other gifts, the trousseau, and corredo. He emphasizes the competition among 
Venetians for the highest quality grooms available. 

The early modem essays are as various as the medieval. Guido Ruggiero of 
Pennsylvania State University offers a micro-historical account of an abbot, his 
concubine, and her "witchcraft," which "unmanned" him and provided her with 
power and independence. Less problematical were the urban lay concubines 
studied by Alexander Cowan of the University of Northumbria, Newcastle. Exam- 
ining the records of secret marriages in the second half of the seventeenth century, 
he concludes that "consensual marriages," while defying the Tridentine strictures 
on sexual behavior, offered younger unmarried sons the very real satisfactions of 
a fictive marriage and family, without the interference of family strategies. 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 83 



The University of Manchester's Brian Pullan has long chronicled poverty in 
Venice, and in his "serial history" he looks at it through the eyes of Venetian 
officials stationed in Bergamo between 1525 and 1793. The Bergamasque econ- 
omy was perennially poor, and these officials seem to have realized that poverty 
resulted from a "total situation," and not from mere sloth or other shortcomings of 
the poor. Theirs was a surprisingly clear, pragmatic, yet sympathetic view, which 
recognized the need for effective charities, for the elimination of corruption and 
exploitation, and for taxation policies that did not hinder the poor. We might be 
less sympathetic with Venice's attitudes toward her own Jews. Benjamin Ravid 
traces the history of the Venetian Ghetto from its inception in 1516 to Napoleon's 
closure of it in 1797. Focusing on the curfew requirement, he outlines the tensions 
between official policy and the need to bend the rules according to the larger 
community's requirements for Jewish expertise in finance or medicine. 

Robert C. Davis of Ohio State University centers his study of ritualized 
violence in Venice on the 1574 visit of Henri de Valois. Some six hundred 
artisan-class men armed with sticks formed two battalions and fought across a 
canal bridge for honor and the delight of the king-designate in a tradition-bound 
battigliola. But what is the effect of the state's imposing new rules on an ancient 
folkway? And what of the venerable "Myth of Venice" itself? The University of 
Arkansas's Robert Finlay studies the History of Guicciardini, and the ways in 
which he uses the myth of Venice as a symbolic metaphor in his "speeches" before 
the Senate from 1494 to 1523. The myth of eternal Venice fortifies patriotism but 
seduces the state into acts of hubris: eschewing negotiation or compromise, the 
Venetians taste defeat, and with defeat comes a failure of reason. Abandoning the 
myth leads to clarity of thinking and action, "wisdom and lucidity"; but the 
Venetians learn too late. Shades of Thucydides. 



JOSEPH P. BYRNE, Belmont University 



Nathalie Dauvois. Prose et poésie dans les Essais de Montaigne. Études Mon- 
taignistes XXXI. Paris, Champion, 1997. Pp. 212. 

Prose et poésie dans les Essais de Montaigne, trente-et-unième volume des Études 
Montaignistes dirigées par Claude Blum, est une contribution appréciable à une 
collection déjà fort riche. L'essai, tel que le qualifie son auteur, se divise en trois 
parties: "Dialogue, satura, prose et poésie," "Prose poétique," et "Si faut-il conduire 
la corde à toute sorte de tons" (qui traite des modes, des genres, des tons et des 
glissements de la prose à la poésie chez Montaigne). Est-il encore possible d'inno- 
ver sur la problématique des péripéties stylistiques de Montaigne? Tel est le pari 
que prend et réussit l'auteur de cet ouvrage. 



84 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



La première partie de l'étude situe Les Essais dans la tradition des Satires 
ménippées de Varron, surtout par leurs modes d'expression hétérogènes. Ainsi, 
Dauvois montre que le dialogue prosaïque et le dialogue poétique qui se font écho 
dans le texte de Montaigne (Horace, Lucrèce, Sénèque, Montaigne) créent des 
"jeux de miroir ironiques" (p. 19). D'autre part, dans "L'Apologie de Raymond 
Sebond," ces jeux (l'on pense aux figures de l'anadiplose et de l'anaphore) 
contribuent à produire une satire où la prétention et l'ambition de la philosophie 
sont mises en lumière. De plus, toujours selon Dauvois, Montaigne associe les 
modes d'expression les plus disparates (Xénophane, Cicéron, un oison, une grue 
dans un cas; styles prosaïque, lyrique, paranétique, métaphorique dans l'autre) 
pour mettre en évidence l'ironie de leurs ressemblances ou révéler la vanité de 
certains styles. 

Pour Dauvois, ce faisceau de modes d'expression libère le texte de Montaigne 
de toute vocation didactique et donne "libre essor à l'expression d'un moi non 
exemplaire, d'un moi ordinaire et privé" (p. 37). Le "je satirique" ou le "je" se 
dédoublant (par exemple, le remplacement du tibi par un mihi dans une citation de 
Martial ou, d'une façon plus complexe, la citation satirique du "je" déjà dédoublé 
de Juvénal) parvient à nous dépeindre une pensée en mouvement et, bien plus, à 
mettre en valeur un point de vue subjectif tout en illustrant la plasticité du style 
satirique. 

Dans la deuxième partie, l'auteur s'attache à définir les caractéristiques de la 
prose poétique chez Montaigne. À la différence du style de Sénèque, qui s'avère 
aussi coupé et rythmique, la prose de Montaigne prend forme dans le glissement 
"de l'intelligible au sensible, du pensé au senti, dans cette oscillation même d'une 
scansion brève et irrégulière à un rythme plus lent, comme de la prose elle-même 
aux vers" (p. 122). Dans la mesure où c'est le rythme qui donne sens à la poésie, 
l'émotion se communique ainsi dans le texte de Montaigne par un "rythme-mou- 
vement." En se servant de l'exemplaire de Bordeaux, Dauvois observe que les 
corrections de Montaigne sont souvent d'ordre rythmique et musical. Les Essais 
semblent être consacrés à la représentation du mouvement du temps, à travers, 
entre autres procédés, l'hétérométrie, les répétitions et les variations, l'interfé- 
rence des vers et de la prose, les anaphores, et les échos en homéotéleutes qu'on 
trouve surtout dans "L'Apologie de Raymond Sebond," "De la praesumption," "De 
la vanité," et "De la phisionomie" (pp. 150-61). 

La troisième partie de l'ouvrage s'ouvre sur un passage de l'essai I, 38 (". . . 
chaque chose a plusieurs biais et plusieurs lustres"). Le mélange des genres donne 
au lecteur l'impression d'un mouvement irrépressible: le discours didactique cède 
la place au dialogue, au récit et à la sentence, en passant de nouveau par l'interfé- 
rence de la prose et des vers. "Et l'on serait presque tenté de qualifier ici l'écriture 
de Montaigne de lyrique," note Dauvois, "si l'acception même que prendrait alors 
le terme ne constituait un anachronisme" (p. 179). Quand Montaigne écrit, par 
exemple, sur la mort dans "De la vanité," la prose devient plus poétique. La prose 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 85 



ainsi "poétisée" (par T alternance de pairs et d'impairs, de glissements et d'échos 
sonores) situe le texte à la frontière de la raison et de la folie, de la veille et du 
songe. De façon plus générale, l'écriture poétique chez Montaigne, qu'elle soit 
citation ou prose poétique, est "une écriture de variation, sinon de la diversion," 
et c'est précisément dans les glissements les plus imperceptibles de la prose à la 
poésie que nous nous approchons du "coeur de l'enjeu même de l'écriture" (p. 
190). 

Concernant la présentation du livre, il convient de noter l'existence d'une 
bibliographie clairement établie, ainsi que l'index des passages des Essais cités ou 
commentés. On peut regretter l'absence d'un index des noms d'auteurs cités, qui 
aurait rehaussé l'utilité pratique de l'ouvrage. On aurait aussi souhaité ne pas 
trouver tant de coquilles dans les noms et titres anglais (pp. 9, 15, 88, 202, 206, 
207), mais ces fautes n'enlèvent rien à la valeur intrinsèque de l'étude. 

Dans sa conclusion, Nathalie Dauvois note avec raison combien la question 
du rapport de la prose à la poésie dépasse, chez Montaigne, les catégories habi- 
tuelles de la rhétorique et de la poétique. Même si Dauvois se propose de dépasser 
les enquêtes lexicales et philologiques à la Jakobson, il semble que l'intérêt du 
travail de Dauvois se trouve précisément dans la finesse et la rigueur de l'analyse 
linguistique. Ce volume original, mince de par le nombre de pages mais riche en 
analyse, pourrait très bien édifier tout lecteur de Montaigne, du débutant au plus 
accompli. 

CATHY YANDELL, Carleton College (Northfield, Minnesota) 



Ilona Bell. Elizabethan Women and the Poetry of Courtship. Cambridge: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1998. Pp. xiv, 262. 

The old-fashioned definition of lyrics as poems expressive of the speaker's subjec- 
tivity has been under question since the heyday of structuralism; in the case of 
Elizabethan lyrics, the final demise of that time-worn definition may well be 
signaled by the publication of Ilona Bell's Elizabethan Woman and the Poetry of 
Courtship. For, in this book, the attention to the subjective quality of late sixteenth- 
century lyrics, to their individual or aesthetic dimension, is replaced by a discussion 
of their possible public resonance and, especially, their function as voicing the 
perspective of the participants in the process of courtship. The sonnet, in particular, 
is seen here, not as a genre that takes love as its intellectual excuse, but rather as 
having a specific social function: an instrument to be used in the negotiations of 
courtship, aimed by the male poet at persuading the primary reader, and thus (and 
this is one of the key points made by this book) giving that reader — the female 
addressee — the ultimate control over the content of the poems. Thus the ideological 
position of this book fits very much in the Bakhtinian tradition: its aim is to restore 



86 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



the dialogue that is implicit in Renaissance lyrics by making us aware of the constant 
interaction between the poet and his primary reader, the beloved. But that beloved 
is not to be seen as a passive, distant Petrarchan mistress: by placing the sequences 
in their proper social context, it becomes evident that the specific conditions of 
Elizabethan courtship allow women more participation in and control of their 
relationship to men than a de-contextualised or purely intertextual reading might 
suggest. 

Every work of historical revision has an implied adversary, or a mode of 
reading that it tries to counter-balance or to reverse. In this case, that adversary is 
the tradition which, in the forms of New Criticism or of Poststructuralist Textual- 
ism, has tried to separate sixteenth-century poetry from the intricacies of political 
and sexual realities. Significantly, several of the critical positions against which 
Bell explicitly positions herself are directly illustrated by T. S. Eliot, but it is 
legitimate to see them aimed at later forms of criticism as well: for Bell, it is 
especially the critical tendency to see the woman in Elizabethan poetry as a 
metaphor, a figure of speech or an icon that has to be discarded in the light of the 
documentary evidence. It is clear that, at least among the educated classes, the 
capacity of women to vindicate their own position and to respond to the poetry 
addressed to them was a significant factor in the development of courtships that 
might effectively lead to the start of a relationship, to actual sexual intercourse or 
to marriage. 

The book begins by considering the context in which Elizabethan courtship 
occurred, and here already, several preconceptions have to be abandoned: Bell 
brings in abundant documentary proof of the complicity that might often occur 
between parents and children in the processes of courtship, and of the convergence 
of economic and affective factors in the preparations for marriage, as opposed to 
the absolute submission of the latter to the former. A richly informed analysis of 
guidebooks and manuals for the composition of letters and poems of love also 
reveals that both men and women might be well trained in the ambiguities and 
double entendres to be used in the negotiation of love. The complex picture of 
Elizabethan courtship that emerges here sheds a new light on our reading of the 
poetry, on the use of allegories, posies, and sonnets in the difficult negotiations 
and transactions previous to the start of a relationship. A dialogue between Thomas 
Whythorne and a female disciple in his days as a master musician may take place 
through a series of notes containing "posies" and riddles, left by the potential 
lovers on the strings of the guitar on which they are practising. The extended 
relationship of Anne Vavassour and Sir Henry Lee can be accurately negotiated 
through the circulation of manuscript poems in which the potential lovers ventril- 
oquize each other's voices — from Lee's complaint against Lady Anne's marriage 
to her teasing response to him, and, finally, to Lee's public representation of that 
process in the final pageants he wrote for Queen Elizabeth in the 1590s, when he 
and Anne were finally living together. Throughout, Bell makes remarkable contri- 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 87 



butions to the critical literature on her subject, showing how Lee's first poem on 
the affair is a clever subversion of the codes of the female complaint for his own 
purposes, or attributing the authorship of an anonymous text to Anne Vavassour, 
in an excellent example of textual scholarship. 

Ilona Bell's book, then, gives a dialogical dimension to a discourse that has 
been traditionally seen as monological. The specific forms of female authorship 
and poetic voice are also discussed here (in the cases of Isabella Whitney or Queen 
Elizabeth, among others). But even when the voice of the lady is mediated, or 
ventriloquized, by the male poet, her response is essential to the development of 
his sonnet sequences. The first printed versions of Daniel's Deliay for instance, 
appear as a strong effort to de-personalise and rewrite in idealistic fashion the 
account of a female reader's resistance to entering into a serious relationship with 
the poet, a resistance which had been represented in its starkest, most dramatic 
form (much more explicit, as well, on the topics of sexuality and victimisation) in 
the pirated version of 1592. From now on, it will be difficult to achieve a significant 
reading of, or produce significant research on, Delia without taking into account 
the contrast between the two versions of the sequence, which corresponds to the 
distance between the private development of Daniel's courtship and his public 
presentation (and idealistic transformation) of it. By producing discussions such 
as these. Bell's work points the way towards a considerable amount of scholarly 
work to be done; her methodology could also be applied to Sidney's sonnets 
(abundantly quoted, though not directly discussed in this volume) or to Michael 
Drayton's. 

Still, it might be argued that the polemical quality of the book's supersession 
of the old topics of womanhood as trope or intellectual excuse for the poetry is 
excessive throughout: that primary goal is successfully achieved through Bell's 
detailed reading of the poems and manuscripts, and does not need to be over- 
emphasised. Moreover, the constant assumption of a divide between Petrarchism 
(or rather, Petrarch himself) and the English sonnet tradition, whereby the latter 
appears as confronting more directly the problems of desire and sexual victimisa- 
tion, lessens the impact of Bell's discussion of Daniel and Spenser (especially of 
some misogynist images in the Amoretti, which are more directly borrowed from 
Petrarch than might be supposed). In fact, the continental Petrarchan tradition, as 
Giusseppe Mazzotta, Gary Waller, and others have shown, is not without its own 
insistence on sexual drives or perversion: the Canzoniere itself is pervaded by an 
acute awareness of the materialistic nature of human love, dialectically opposed 
to a tendency to turn that love into an intellectual abstraction. The materialistic 
tendency of the English tradition should therefore be seen as capitalising on that 
thematic potential and expanding it, rather than as going against the grain of the 
received Petrarchan tradition. This is, however, the only serious objection that 
could be made to the stimulating discussion carried out by Ilona Bell on the 
Elizabethan poetry of courtship — a discussion which, along with its methodology 



88 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



(especially its fascinating analysis of manuscript sources), should have a rich 
progeny, if we are to increase our understanding of the many material and sexual 
conditionings of Renaissance poetry. 

JOAN CURB ET, Universitat Autdnoma de Barcelona 



Booknotes 
Notes de lecture 



Anthony Blunt. Art and Architecture in France 1500-1700. 5th ed. Rev. R. 
Beresford. Pelican History of Art Series. New Haven: Yale University Press, 
1999. Pp. xi, 320. 

Depuis 1953, date de sa première parution, l'ouvrage d'Anthony Blunt est devenu 
un classique de l'histoire de l'art de la Renaissance et du "Grand Siècle." Traduit, 
abondamment cité et repris, ce livre incontournable fait à présent l'objet d'une 
cinquième édition revue par R. Beresford. Le lecteur trouvera ici une version 
élégante de l'ouvrage de base, qui analyse avec érudition, et sans jamais lasser le 
lecteur, les principales périodes de création artistique en France de François P** 
jusqu'à la fin du règne de Louis XIV. De nombreuses reproductions en couleur, de 
bonne qualité, et la bibliographie actualisée raffraîchissent cet important classique. 

FRANÇOIS ROUGET, Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario) 



James Doelman, ed. Early Stuart Pastoral: The Shepherd's Pipe by William 
Browne and Others and The Shepherd's Hunting by George Wither, Toronto: 
Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 1999. Pp. 195. 

This edition brings together two volumes of early seventeenth-century pastoral 
verse produced by a circle of Spenserians associated with the Inner Temple: George 
Wither, William Browne, John Davies of Hereford, and Christopher Brooke. The 
earlier volume. The Shepherd's Pipe (1614), is a mixed bag of eleven loosely 
connected eclogues, mostly by Browne, but with contributions from the other three 
poets. The Shepherd's Hunting (1615) is Wither's alone, a trio of eclogues in which 
the poet reflects upon his experiences in the Marshalsea, where the author of the 
controversial satire Abuses stript and whipt was imprisoned for four months in 1 6 1 4. 
The texts are modernized where appropriate, well annotated, and accompanied by 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 2 (1999) /89 



90 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



an introductory essay — which is, unfortunately, brief. Given the relative obscurity 
of the poets and the poems, this reader would have appreciated more than the scant 
eight pages provided here. Furthermore, some of the emphases in that essay are 
puzzling: Doelman assumes a reader who needs to be introduced to the most basic 
features of pastoral verse but is nonetheless sufficiently conversant with Jacobean 
history to require virtually no explanation as to what the "Addled Parliament" of 
1614 was all about. More space might have been devoted to the collaborative nature 
of The Shepherd's Pipe; as Doelman himself notes, this is a rare, perhaps unique, 
instance of coterie poetry made available via publication to a wider audience. As 
such, it will be of interest to students of Jacobean literary culture, as well as those 
with a particular interest in the pastoral tradition. 

BRIAN PATTON, King's College, University of Western Ontario 



Marie-Christine Gomez-Géraud. Le Crépuscule du Grand Voyage. Les Récits 
de pèlerins à Jérusalem (1458-1612). Paris, Champion, 1999. Pp. 1040. 

Fruit d'une thèse d'état, ce livre ample et foisonnant de mises au point se présente 
comme une "histoire littéraire du discours sur le pèlerinage (de la veille des 
Réformes aux grandes heures de la Contre-Réforme" (p. 24). Marie-Christine 
Gomez-Géraud décrit une longue période de mutations techniques, littéraires et 
religieuses, où se substituent au voyage traditionnel en Terre Sainte, contesté et 
déclinant, de nouvelles explorations dans des contrées inexplorées. Pourtant, la 
fascination qu'exerce Jérusalem sur les fidèles ne disparaît pas. A la pérégrination 
spatiale succède une nostalgie du pèlerinage qui s'illustre par une multitude d'ou- 
vrages d'histoire et de dévotion. L'ouvrage finement illustré présente en fin de 
volume un précieux répertoire bio-bibliographique des pèlerins et des auteurs de 
récits de pèlerinage (pp. 893-945), une bibliographie exhaustive (pp. 947-1008), 
et un index des notions principales (pp. 1(X)9-116). 

FRANÇOIS ROUGET, Queen's University (Kingston, Ontano) 



\ 



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VOLUME XXIII NUMBER 



SUMMER 1999 



RENAISSANCE 

ND REFORMATION 




<r,.,i,- I 





RENAISSANCE 



IM'Me 



Wà 



VOLUME XXIIl NUMERO 



y / 



ETE 1999 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme is published quarterly (February, 
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Directeur / Editor 

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Renaissance and Reformation 

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Summer / été 1999 (date of issue: May 2001 mai) 



PERIODICALS READINGliOM 



Humanities 




^^y of 10^^' 



New Series, Vol. XXm, No. 3 Nouvelle Série, Vol. XXm, No 3 

Old Series, Vol. XXXV, No. 3 1999 Ancienne Série, Vol. XXXV, No 3 

CONTENTS / SOMMAIRE 



EDITORIAL 

3 

ARTICLES 

The Autonomy of Conscience: Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 

by Judy Ann Ford 
5 

Faking It: A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James I 

by Richard Raiswell 
29 

The Iconography of Time in The Winter's Tale 

by Frederick Kiefer 

49 

« Les Païens de la Pléiade » : UÉrotisme dans les Folastries de Ronsard et 

dans les Gayeîez d'Olivier de Magny 

par David Dorais 

65 

BOOK REVIEWS/COMPTES RENDUS 

Philip Ford. Ronsard's Hymnes. A literary and iconographical study 

recensé par André Gendre 
81 



Aby Warburg. The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity: Contributions to the Cultural 

History of the European Renaissance 
reviewed by Alexander Nagel 
% 87 

L'Ermetismo nelVAntichita e nel Rinascimento 

recensé par Louis Valcke 

91 

Robert Williams. Art, Theory, and Culture in Sixteenth-Century Italy: From 

Techne to Metatechne 

reviewed by Michael J. B. Allen 

95 

Sources et fontaines du Moyen Age à l'âge baroque 

recensé par Martine Vasselin 

97 

Catharine Randall. Building Codes: The Aesthetics of Calvinism in Early 

Modem Europe 

reviewed by Susan E. Dinan 

101 

Muriel C. McClendon. The Quiet Reformation: Magistrates and the 

Emergence of Protestantism in Tudor Norwich 

reviewed by Raymond A. Mentzer 

104 

Margaret Cavendish. The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays 

reviewed by Randall Ingram 
106 

BOOKNOTES/NOTES DE LECTURE 

Danièle Duport. « Les Jardins qui sentent le sauvage ». 

Ronsard et la poétique du paysage 

recensé par François Rouget 

109 

John Spurr. English Puritanism, 1603-1689 

reviewed by Elizabeth Sauer 

109 

Paul E. J. Hammer. The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political 
Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-1597 

reviewed by Alan G. Arthur 
110 



Editorial 



We are now in a position to furnish 
the address of our new Web site, as 
promised in the last number: 
http://phoenix.arts.uwo.ca/randr. Its 

beginnings (and we hope that it will 
genuinely have begun by the time this 
issue appears!) are modest, but we hope 
that it will evolve over time to be of 
increasing value to our readers — and 
prospective readers. Certainly, it will 
feature timely announcements and links 
to other sites of interest, so we invite all 
concerned to consult it regularly. 



Nous sommes maintenant en mesure 
de fournir l'adresse de notre nouveau 
site Web, comme annoncé dans le dern- 
ier numéro. La voici : http://phoe- 
mx.arts.uwo.ca/randr. Les débuts sont 
modestes, mais nous espérons que ce 
site évoluera avec le temps pour devenir 
de plus en plus utile à nos lecteurs — et 
à nos lecteurs potentiels. En tout cas, il 
offrira des annonces intéressantes et des 
liens à d'autres sites pertinents. Nous 
vous invitons toutes et tous de le visiter 
régulièrement. 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 3 (1999) /3 



The Autonomy of 

Conscience: Images of 

Confession in Mirk's Festial 



JUDY ANN 
FORD 



Résumé : Le présent article examine la présentation du sacrement de la confes- 
sion dans le Festial, recueil populaire anglais de sermons de langue vemaculaire 
rédigé par John Mirk vers la fin du XI v siècle. En particulier, l 'article 
s 'intéresse aux exempla dans les sermons pour le carême, en concluant que les 
exempla de Mirk dépeignent les pécheurs comme participants autonomes au 
processus de leur propre salut, capables de communiquer avec la divinité sans 
intermédiaire clérical Le Festial était orthodoxe ; ses sermons font allusion 
fréquemment à la nécessité de se confesser à un prêtre. Néanmoins, ses exempla 
mettent V accent sur le pouvoir de l'acte laïque, ce qui pourrait expliquer la 
popularité de ce texte. 



For l)us I rede of a woman Jjat had done an horrybull synne, and myght neuer, for schame, 
schryue hyr J)erof. And oft, when ho come to schryf, scho was yn purpos forto haue ben 
schryuen; but euer |)e fend put such a schame yn hur hert, |)at scho had neuer grace to 
clanse hur l)erofe. Then, on a nyght, as scho lay yn hur bed, and l)Oght moch on t)at 
synne, Ihesu Crist come to hur and say de: "My doghtyr, why wol jjou not schew me jjy 
hert, and schryue J)e of l)at synne J)at \iO\x lyse yn?" "Lord," quod scho, "I may not, for 
schame." I>en sayde Crist: "Schew me J)y bond"; and toke hur bond, and put hit ynto hys 
syde, and sayde, and drogh hit all blody out: "Be [)ou no more aschamed to opyn Jjy hert 
to me, [)en I am to opon my syde to [)e."^ 

This story is from the Festial, a vernacular sermon collection by John 
Mirk, an Austin canon from Shropshire, probably written in the 1380s 
as a reference work for priests who were unable or unwilling to compose 
original pieces for their preaching.^ This passage, in which a sinner speaks 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 3 (1999) /5 



6 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



to Christ without an intermediary and is advised by him to unburden herself 
through "shryfit]," or confession, raises a number of questions about the 
experience of religion in late medieval England, particularly in regard to the 
autonomy of individual conscience. What would the men and women stand- 
ing in the nave of a parish church, listening to this story, have thought about 
the image of a lay woman conversing with God in private and actually 
touching his divine body with her mortal hand? What conclusions might they 
have drawn about a sermon which encouraged auricular confession, yet 
spoke of a sinner who confronted her God alone? Would they have imagined 
themselves in her place, speaking directly to Christ? 

The question of the degree of lay autonomy in religion during the late 
Middle Ages is central to the debate over the reformations in England. The 
conventional interpretation of causality has placed lay initiative in opposi- 
tion to traditional medieval religion. According to this school of thought, the 
medieval church consisted of a corrupt clerical and monastic hierarchy, 
dominated by a well-educated ecclesiastical elite, and an oppressed, largely 
illiterate laity kept in a state of superstitious ignorance. According to this 
interpretation, the Protestant reformation occurred when a newly literate, 
educated and prosperous segment of the laity sought access to the scriptures, 
and threw off the yoke of clerical and monastic oppression. It is an emotion- 
ally satisfying narrative, but one which has been under steady attack for the 
last two decades by revisionist historians, who have proposed a "top-down" 
version of the reformation in place of the "bottom-up" version favored by 
the conventional interpretation. According to the revisionists, the medieval 
laity — even those who could in no way be characterized as socially or 
politically elite — had considerable control over their own experience of 
religion. The Henrician and Elizabethan reformations, by strengthening the 
church and state, eroded control of religious independence and established 
a more effective domination by the literate elite — lay and clerical — over 
the less literate masses. Revisionist historians have argued that ordinary 
people had more autonomy in religious matters prior to the Elizabethan 
settlement than they had after it, basing their case on the number of institu- 
tions established and controlled by the laity, such as religious guilds and 
parochial organizations, on lay employment of clergy for chantries and 
similar institutions, and on the lay organization of many forms of worship, 
such as those associated with the cult of saints.^ The validity of these 
opposing interpretations is still the subject of much debate among scholars 
of the English reformation. 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 1 7 



Revisionist history, in this instance, has focused more on behavior than 
on written expression."* Revisionists, using primarily archival sources such 
as wills, inventories and church wardens' accounts, have explored what lay 
people did, especially with their money. In many cases, although certainly 
not all, these historians have employed quantitative methodologies to recap- 
ture the point of view of the average medieval lay men and women, who 
typically committed few if any of their thoughts to writing. Such scholarship 
is a necessary corrective to the reliance on the more literary sources upon 
which the conventional, or "bottom-up," interpretation was based. Works 
by authors such as Chaucer and Langland, while unquestionably presenting 
an authentic medieval voice, so patently emerge from the highly literate 
portion of the laity that it is difficult to see them as representative of the 
opinions of the majority. Nevertheless, the focus revisionists have placed on 
archival sources has led to a significant gap in the debate over the reforma- 
tions in England. 

Prescriptive ecclesiastical literature, which instructed the laity not only 
about how they should behave but also how they should think about the 
church, their role within the church, and their relationship to the divine, has 
been largely overlooked by revisionist scholars attempting to determine the 
late medieval lay experience of religion. Naturally, such sources would have 
been composed by people who were literate, most frequently by clerical or 
monastic authors, and may be presumed to reflect their biases to varying 
degrees. Yet some of this literature, such as Mirk's Festial, was written 
indirectly for a largely illiterate audience, to whom it would be read. To be 
effective, it needed to merge the assumptions of its elite authors with the 
expectations and experience of its non-elite audience. If such texts empha- 
sized images of a passive, obedient laity under the authority of mediating 
priests, monks and friars, then the autonomy exercised by lay people in their 
everyday practice of religion may be presumed to have run contrary to the 
ideological content of the ecclesiology they were taught. If, on the other 
hand, images of an autonomous, independent laity with direct access to the 
divine, such as the woman who conversed with Christ in Mirk's story, were 
typical, then the notion of an oppressive late medieval church posited by the 
conventional interpretation of the English reformation would be far more 
difficult to maintain. 

The Festial 's descriptions of confession may be taken as illustrative of 
Mirk's representation of the relationship between the church and the laity, 
because this sacrament was a singularly important point of contact between 



8 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



lay people and the official representatives of the church. Mirk's Festial is a 
lengthy compilation, containing, in the edition of Theodore Erbe, seventy- 
four sermons for holy days, Sundays and special occasions. Hence, a full 
consideration of its images of the laity in relationship to the church would 
be an immense undertaking. A preliminary exploration of these images may 
be achieved by examining Mirk's presentation of the theory and practice of 
confession. Within the Festial, discussion of confession is concentrated in 
the penitential sermons of Lent and Advent, as is not surprising because 
penitential sermons, particularly those for Lent, were axiomatic in the late 
Middle Ages for instruction about sin and confession. ^ This study is confined 
to the Advent and Lent sermons of the Festial. 

Theories of confession were undergoing substantial change during the 
late Middle Ages, from at least the time of the Fourth Lateran Council 
(1215).^ Scholars have remarked upon the increase in the attention devoted 
to this sacrament: speculation on the correct use of confession and penance 
came to dominate the religious literature of the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries.^ During the fifteenth century, the period of the Festial 's greatest 
popularity, a theology of confession was being shaped that combined secrecy, 
interiority and external control.^ The penitential works of Jean Gerson, the 
influential theologian and chancellor of the University of Paris in the early 
fifteenth century, were influential in this development.^ Gerson' s writings 
on confession represent, in the words of Brian Patrick McGuire, "the 
threshold of modem forms of indoctrination."^^ Most importantly, the vision 
of confession he offered positioned the sinner as passive, as the object of 
examination and transformation by a powerful confessor. 

Gerson viewed confession as part of a program of Christian education 
which was marked by ceaseless observation and examination. He considered 
that his task as an educator was to extract from children the truth about their 
lives, so that he could reform them.^^ Not surprisingly, Gerson also argued 
that the most effective way to bring adult lay people to Christ was through 
confession. 12 

According to McGuire, Gerson envisioned a confessional practice 
which allowed the confessor thoroughly to dominate the penitent. He ad- 
vised confessors to isolate penitents from each other, to put them in a social 
and emotional vacuum, so that they would have no recourse but to reach out 
for the sympathy and advice of their confessors. ^^ The confessor, in contrast, 
must remain emotionally disengaged, while feigning friendship and sympa- 
thy for the penitent. In Gerson' s words, this pretense was a "pious decep- 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 1 9 



tion," designed to "deceive, cajole and intimidate" the penitent into reveal- 
ing himself totally. Gerson's approach to confession was much more intru- 
sive than that of his predecessors: he stressed the need for a complete and 
detailed recounting of the penitent's actions and thoughts. To quote 
McGuire, Gerson "felt obliged to exercise absolute moral power over his 
flock ... to spread a sense of guilt and fear ... his strategy . . . points to a 
totalitarian future. The fundamentalistic passion of a Gerson shows us what 
to expect in the coming Reformation and Counter-Reformation."*"^ 

Michel Foucault has explored the development in the early modem 
period of institutions and systems which claimed ownership over the knowl- 
edge and thought processes of the individual, and which professed the 
authority, in fact, the obligation, to subject the individual to thorough and 
ceaseless examination.*^ The advice given by Gerson for a Christian educa- 
tion blends into the characteristics of early modern prisons, schools, facto- 
ries, hospitals and armies, which, Foucault argues, were designed to correct 
and transform individuals: 

The ideal point of penality today would be an indefinite discipline: an interrogation 
without end, an investigation that would be extended without limit to a meticulous and 
ever more analytical observation, a judgment that would at the same time be the 
constitution of a file that was never closed, the calculated leniency of a penalty that 
would be interlaced with the ruthless curiosity of an examination.*^ 

This trend in late medieval and early modem confessional theory not only 
mirrored but also seems to have anticipated a development in many other 
aspects of European culture, namely, the loss of individual autonomy in the 
face of more effective mechanisms of institutional control. 

Scholars of late medieval confession have observed that the loss of 
individual autonomy was associated with both secrecy and interiority. John 
Bossy, in his seminal "The Social History of Confession in the Age of the 
Reformation," argues that the most radical change in the practice of confes- 
sion was the shift from its being a public event to a private one, a transfor- 
mation which he believes to have been established in terms of theological 
theory at the Fourth Lateran Council, but which manifested itself in practice 
only during the sixteenth century.*^ The theological change centered on the 
subject of reconciliation: whereas reconciliation to the community had been 
the goal of the sacrament prior to the Fourth Lateran Council, reconciliation 
to God became the goal thereafter. To use Bossy's terms, the traditional 
notion of confession as "an annual settlement of social accounts" was 
replaced by "a tendency to psychologize the sacrament: to reinforce the 



10 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



desocializing efforts of the earlier scholastics by suggesting that sin was 
essentially something which occurred in the mind."^^ 

According to Bossy, the changes in confessional practice took place 
during the sixteenth century. Prior to that time, confession "was a face-to- 
face encounter between two people who would probably have known each 
other pretty well. ... it occurred, normally speaking, once a year, in the 
not-so-remote presence of a large number of neighbors, and more or less at 
the time (Maundy Thursday) set aside to the community of public peni- 
tents."*^ There is ample evidence that confessions normally took place 
within a church, in the sight of the congregation, although not within earshot 
— at least intentionally. The confessional box, introduced during the six- 
teenth century, physically isolated the confessor and the penitent from 
everyone else, enclosed them in darkness, and even channeled communica- 
tion between them through a small grille.^^ Confession had been withdrawn 
from the eyes of the community. 

Jonathan Hughes's case study of confessional literature in York con- 
nects the pan-European transformation of the sacrament with developments 
specific to England. According to Hughes, both the lay elite and the clergy 
were instrumental in changing confession. He argues that the increase in 
interiority, privacy and clerical control was stimulated by an increase in lay 
literacy and by the appearance of heresies such as Lollardy, particularly 
Wyclif s attack on the principle of compulsory annual confession to a priest. 

Hughes sees the radical changes in confession as part of the growth of 
privacy among the elite.^* In late medieval England, educated lay people 
began to employ private confessors; the spiritual inclinations of this lay elite 
led to a greater focus on interiority.^^ The interior spirituality cultivated by 
the pious elite did not give them greater autonomy. On the contrary, by the 
late fourteenth century, pastoral writers had begun to place more emphasis 
on obedience to authority, and this was communicated both through private 
confessors and through devotional manuals intended for the educated laity .^^ 

At the same time as lay elites sought greater privacy, Hughes argues, 
the church hierarchy in England was altering confession in order to increase 
its control over society and counter the development of lay piety and 
independence in spiritual matters.^"* Ecclesiastical authorities sought to 
control society by the shaping of individual consciences. According to 
Hughes, secrecy was a powerful tool: "The church claimed to exert effective 
control over the fate of the individual's soul in the next world and used the 
strictures of eternal punishment to discipline the private thoughts and im- 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festiall 1 1 



pulses of parishioners in this world. It was also able to achieve this because 
of another unique aspect of the penitential system, its secrecy."^^ He ob- 
serves that, from the point of view of the church hierarchy, the goal of the 
late medieval penitential system was "to exert complete control over all 
aspects of the lives of parishioners."^^ 

Yet the images of confession presented in the penitential sermons of 
the Festial suggest a very different understanding of the sacrament. In these 
sermons, the sinner is an autonomous actor with direct access to the divine, 
and the process of sin and redemption is an open, public act. In the context 
of the FestiaVs theological framework, God and the sinner alone have 
complete access to the knowledge of an individual's sins, and while repre- 
sentatives of the church may advise the penitent individual, they do not 
possess a transformative authority. Moreover, confession, guilt and punish- 
ment are witnessed; they are open to the eyes of the community. An 
examination of the models of confession promulgated in the Festial suggests 
that those who preached its sermons taught the laity to conceptualize the 
church as a facilitating rather than as a controlling agency, and to think of 
sins in the context of a human community. 

Within Mirk's Festial, the sinner exercises an active agency within a 
set of knowable and finite laws which seem to bind even God. The agency 
of the sinner is manifested in the two most common metaphors for confession 
employed in the Festial: that of sin as a wound and that of the sinner as a 
defendant in court. Both the healing and the juridical images reflect tradi- 
tions which can be traced to the early Middle Ages, if not earlier.^^ These 
metaphors usually appear in the exempla, the stories embedded in the 
sermons, which are called 'narrations' (narraciones) by Mirk. 

Although Mirk draws on a long tradition in using the metaphor of a 
wound to speak of sin, the specifics of the metaphor are unusual in the Festial 
because of the absence of a doctor, an element common in other texts.^^ 
Nowhere in the Festial does Mirk use the analogy between a confessor and 
a doctor. Confession heals the wounds of sin, but, in the language of the 
Festial, the sinner does not have to submit his body metaphorically to the 
examination of a doctor/confessor. Instead, the sinner plays a distinctly 
active role in his own salvation. Representatives of the church, when they 
appear, provide information and perform the ritual of confession, but they 
do not examine or treat the sinner as a doctor might a patient. 

Mirk dramatically makes the association between bodily wounds and 
sinfulness in the story of the woman who put her hand into Christ's side. 



12 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



The sermons for both the first and the second Sundays in Lent contain this 
story with a few variations in wording. In this visitation, Christ uses his own 
wounds as a symbolic equivalent for the sinner's unconfessed guilt, asking 
her to reveal her sins to him, as he reveals his wounds to her. As there is no 
human intermediary, there is no metaphorical doctor interposing between 
the penitent and the divinity. 

The absence of a doctor to treat the wound of sin is also conspicuous in 
a narrative in the sermon for the third Sunday in Lent. This narracio tells 
the story of a healing miracle revoked, albeit temporarily. Although it is 
overtly about the need to confess even small sins, it also illustrates the 
concept of sin as both a literal and spiritual wound, which can be healed 
through the power of confession.^^ In the story, a man on crutches goes to 
an abbey dedicated to Saint Winifred; he prays to the saint and is healed 
(Mirk, p. 100, 1. 17). But then, the sermon continues: 

Also sone as he come ynto hys bed, anon \tt sekenes toke hym wors |)an hit dyd befor; 
and soo lay all nyght cryyng l)at hit was rewth to here. Then, on l)e morrow, mongkes 
come to hym askyng what he had agylt, l)at hys sekenes was comen a3eyne. And he 
sayde: "Nojjyng." Pen sayde on: "Was |)ou schryuen se|)en J)ou come?" And he sayde 
nay. ... (p. 100, 11. 21-26) 

The man explains that he thinks there is no need for him to confess because 
he stole no cow or horse, and did no grievous sin. But one of the monks 
warns him that many venial sins could do considerable damage (p. 100, 1. 
34). The man is convinced to take action. The sermon reads: "Then t)ys man 
toke a prest and schrof hym. And when he was schryuen, anon he had hys 
hele, and was hole ay after; and heyly jDonked God })at he was helut, bojjt yn 
body and yn soule, by confessyon and prayer of J)is holy mayden Seynt 
Wenefryde" (pp. 100, 11. 34-36, and 101, 11. 1-2). The language used by Mirk 
to describe this healing miracle does not suggest passivity. The sinner is 
clearly an active agent in this story: he journeys to the abbey, accepts the 
advice of the monks, and then literally "takes" a priest and confesses himself. 
Rather remarkably, none of the narratives involving confession in these 
sermons include a description of the actual procedure. That procedure 
always takes place outside the narrative, and the confessor rarely appears as 
a character. Other medieval sermon collections include exempla describing 
the process of confession, in which the priest is a principal actor, asking 
questions and drawing out the penitent.^^ In the Festial, the audience is not 
permitted to see the confessor act. Instead, stories tell the audience about the 
choices and actions taken by people who have sinned. 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 1 13 



In place of the process of confession, the process Mirk associates with 
the wounds of sin is combat. Instead of a passive patient, the sinner in the 
Festial is an active warrior. The sermon for Advent Sunday explicitly 
compares the confessed sinner to a valiant knight: 

For ryght as a knyght scheweth |)e wondys Jjat he haj)e yn batayle, yn moche comendyng 
to hym; ryght so all l)e synnys [)at a man hath schryuen hym of, and taken hys penans 
for, schull be Jjer yschewet yn moch honowre to hym, and moche confucyon to \tQ fende, 
(p. 2, 11. 16-22) 

This analogy conveys the message that sins that have been confessed and 
repaid by penance are things to be proud of, in the way that a knight might 
be praised for his battle scars. A confessed sinner carries the scars of sin, 
not as a grateful patient, but as a successful soldier. 

Although the image of a knight in combat is not unusual in penitential 
literature, other works position the confessor, not the penitent, as the valiant 
knight.^ ^ In Mirk, there are many examples of the penitent as warrior. For 
example, a story in the sermon for the second Sunday in Lent describes a 
women bringing her possessed daughter to Christ to be healed. The sermon 
explains that the possessed daughter is symbolic of a sinner whose con- 
science is unsuccessfully battling with a fiend; if the sinner confesses to a 
priest, he will prevail over the fiend (p. 95, 11. 10-1 1). In the same sermon. 
Mirk uses a scriptural story about Jacob as the basis for another use of the 
image of the penitent as warrior. The sermon reads: 

He most furst be Jacob ... by lacob ys vndyrstond a wrasteler. . . . When he goth to 
schryue hym, and haj)e an horrybull synne, Jje fende puttyjje such a schame yn hys hert, 
so, J)ogh hit be yn his mouthe, he may not for schame tell hit out; |)en most he wrastyll 
wyth |)e fende, and ouercom hym, and so tell out opynly all |)e circumstance t)erof. (p. 
94, 11. 28-36) 

The sermon for Palm Sunday uses this image to explain the procession 
associated with the liturgy of that day. It says that on this Sunday each 
Christian shall bear palms in procession, showing that he has fought with 
the fiend and gained victory over him "by clene schryft of mowjje and 
repentans of hert, and mekely don his penance, and in |Dis wyse ouercome 
hisenmy"(p. 116,11.8-10). 

The absence of the process of confession within the narratives of the 
Festial does not indicate any unorthodox rejection of auricular confession, 
nor does it suggest that Mirk was advising confession to a lay person. In the 
text surrounding the narratives. Mirk frequently advises confession to a 



14 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



priest. The characterization of the confessor is somewhat surprising, in that 
it is not that of a powerful authority figure. Instead, Mirk draws attention to 
the essential similarity between the penitent and the priest. He emphasizes 
the human, sinful nature of the confessor and argues that this sinfulness is 
an advantage to the penitent because it makes the confessor more approach- 
able. In the sermon for the first Sunday in Lent, Mirk explains that confession 
to a mortal priest is a divine concession made by God out of his grace. God 
selected a representative who is sinful himself, so that people would not be 
ashamed to confess their sins to him. The sermon reads: "Then take hede 
wheche an hegh grace God 3euyth you yn demyng, when he ordeynet a 
synfull man, as J)ow art, to be J)y domysman; for all ys yn hegh help to you, 
to 3eve boldnes to you to telle out all J^at lythe yn your hert, and noj^yng forto 
hyde ..." (p. 90, 11. 1-5). 

The active agency of the sinner is clear in Mirk's use of the metaphors 
of wounds and battle to discuss sin and forgiveness, but it is even more 
apparent in his metaphor of juridical process. In the FestiaVs penitential 
sermons, the sinner often appears as a defendant in a court, making choices 
within a fixed procedural framework, whose rules must be obeyed by both 
the sinner and God. The sermon for Advent Sunday describes the judgment 
of a sinner after death, using the imagery of a courtroom, complete with a 
judge — that is, a "domesman" — witnesses, and demonic prosecutors: 

He schall haue accusars aboue hym, wythyn hym, on aythyr syde hym, and vndyr hym, 
jjat he schall no way scape. Aboue hym schall be Crist his domes-man so wroJDC, |5at no 
tong con tell, for he dyt no mercy; wythyn hym his on concyens accusyng hym of [je 
lest l)Oght J)at euer he dyd amys; hys angyll on |5at on syde tellyng hym redely wher and 
how oft he ha|3e don amys; on jjat o|)er syde fendes chalenchyng hym horres as by ryght; 
vndyr hym helle }eonyng, and galpyng, and spyttyng fyre and stench redy forto swolon 
hym ynto |3e payne |3at neuer schall haue ende. (p. 4, 11. 23-32) 

The sermon for the first Sunday in Lent explicitly links hell with prison in 
these words about the unrepentant sinner: God "wyll make bynde hym bond 
and fote, and cast hym ynto prison, J3at ys, ynto {)e paynes of helle" (p. 91, 
11. 5-6). 

Earthly confession, according to these sermons, is a way of avoiding 
the most dreadful consequences of this post-mortem trial. According to the 
theology of the Festial, God is bound by juridical procedure and must damn 
all who die in a state of sin. Since it is assumed that everyone will sin, in the 
absence of some alternative procedure, God would be compelled to damn 
everyone. He therefore created confession as a procedural loophole, through 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial / 15 



which the sinner may choose to provide compensation to God while still 
alive and thus relieve God of the obligation of sentencing the sinner to the 
prison of hell. The sermon for the first Sunday in Lent explains: 

Thus, for he sees jjat no man may scape his dome vndampned, jjerfor he, of hys hegh 
grace, 3euyth hys power to a curatour, to deme all {)at comen to hym, hauyng ferme and 
stabull all l)at comyth to hym; as })us l)er schall no good dede be vnquyte, nor no euell 
vnponysched. Therfor yf a curatour 3eue |)e more penaunce l)en |3e nedyth, |)at ys more, 
hit schall be quyte, and stonde t)e in gret joye of encrese byfor God; 3yf he 3eue l)e euen, 
|)ou art quyte; but yf he 3eue jje to lytyll, t)en schall hyt be fulfylled yn purgatory. Soo 
t)at a man schall neuer be dampned for no synne |)at he y s mekly schryuen of, and takyth 
hys dome mekely of hys schryftfadyr; for all Jjyng jDat ys not clansed here by schryft and 
penance, schall be clansed yn purgatory, (p. 89, 11. 23-35) 

God thus binds himself not to condemn anyone for a sin which has already 
come up before his representative, even if his representative imposed a 
penalty inappropriately heavy or light. And the penalty will "quyte" the 
sinner before God — a term which implies the end of indebtedness in a legal 
or financial sense. The legal metaphor is continued in the same sermon in 
the promise that God will abide by the rule of double jeopardy: "... wherfor 
God woll neuer deme J}e twy for on J)yng" (p. 90, 1. 1). 

The last section of this sermon stresses God's "grace yn amendys 
makyng" (p. 90, 1.31), that is, God's willingness to allow the sinner to choose 
or to reject forgiveness. In these sermons, sinners exercise free will, whether 
their choices lead them to salvation or damnation, without the controlling 
influence of a human intermediary or the direct intervention of a deity. God 
does not automatically impose a sentence; he abides by the choice the 
individual makes. The sinner retains his freedom of action, at least until 
death. God, who presumably knows about sins committed, is shown trying 
to persuade the sinner to confess. As a character in Mirk's sermons, God 
offers a reciprocal exchange of knowledge as part of the process of persua- 
sion and does not resort to force, even in the face of obstinate refusal to take 
advantage of the benefits of earthly confession. 

An example of a voluntary, reciprocal exchange of knowledge may be 
found in the narratives in which the wounded Christ appears to a woman 
who is too embarrassed to confess a grievous sin. In both versions of the 
story, he exchanges knowledge of his "heart," allowing her to violate the 
integrity of his body, in return for her revelation of sins which she would 
rather not relate. A narrative in the sermon for the first Sunday in Lent 
provides a variation of this story, in which the reciprocal exchange goes 



16 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



wrong. In this version, a chapman who has lived sinfully and never confessed 
is about to die, when he is visited by the wounded Christ. Christ twice 
encourages the man to confess his sins and is twice refused. Finally, in what 
seems to be a fit of temper, Christ reaches his hand into his own side, draws 
it out bloody, and flings his blood into the man's face, saying, "I>ou 
fendys-chyld, })ys schall be redy token bytwyx me and j)e yn |)e day of dome, 
|3at I wold haue don |3e mercy, and ))ou woldyst not" (p. 92, 11. 12-14). The 
man cries out that he is now damned, and dies. Certainly the narrative would 
serve to encourage a willingness to confess in this life because of the 
consequences of refusal; nevertheless, the sinner in the story retains free 
choice and is allowed to select his own fate without any human agency 
intervening between him and divine judgment. 

In the sermon for the first Sunday of Lent, there is another narrative 
which illustrates the ability of the sinner to chose his own path, even to 
damnation, without the interference of a coercive, examining authority. In 
this narrative, an impoverished knight robs and kills a merchant to obtain 
the money to marry a wealthy lady. The knight, on the advice of the lady, 
goes back to visit the murdered body at midnight, where the following scene 
takes place: 

And at mydnyght |)er come a lyght from Heuen downe to l)e graue; and \>en J3e graue 
opened, and J)e cors sate vp, and helde vp his hondys to God, and say de: "Lorde [)at art 
ryghtwys juge, l)ou wreke me apon |)is man |)at hajje |)us falsly slayne me for my trew 
catayle." And Jjerwyth come a voyce from Heuen and sayde: "Thys day jjrytty wyntyr, 
J)Ou shait haue vengeans": and |)en \)e cors |)onkyd God, and lay downe yn hys graue 
a3eyne. (p. 88, 11. 21-28) 

The knight and the lady choose to ignore the warning, explicitly deciding 
not to confess, and they live well for thirty years. No priest or confessor is 
introduced in the story at all; the suggestion is that three decades pass without 
any consultation with a member of the clergy on the matter. In the end, the 
knight and the lady are plunged into hell, but, like the chapman in the 
previous story, they are autonomous agents, who clearly do not answer to 
anyone but God for their conduct. 

Just as the sermons in the Festial present images of lay autonomy rather 
than of clerical control, they also reflect the traditional expectation that 
confession was more a public matter than a private one. The public, open 
nature of guilt and confession is conveyed in Mirk's penitential sermons in 
two ways: by the visible manifestation of guilt on the body of the sinner and 
by the presence of witnesses when damnation occurs. 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 1 17 



The visible nature of sin as manifested by physical marks on the body 
is a theme running through many of Mirk's penitential narratives. A good 
example is the story of the women who was invited by Christ to put her hand 
into his side to feel his heart. Christ's blood remained on her hand as an open 
sign of her sin until she confessed. The sermon reads: "Then was ^)ys woman 
agrysed of Jje blod, and wold haue weschyn hit away; but scho myght not, 
be no way, tyll scho had schryuen hur of J)at synne. Then, when scho was 
schryuen, anon }3e hond was clene as J)at ojDyr" (p. 90, 11. 26-30). The story 
of the unrepentant chapman illustrates, not only the presence of Christ's 
blood, but also a physical transformation of the body. The chapman was 
found dead after his rejection of Christ's offer of forgiveness, "J)e red blod 
yn hys face, and {)e body blacke as pych" (p. 92, 1. 20). The demonic cause 
of the blackening of the unrepentant body is explained in the sermon for the 
third Sunday in Lent in a story of an abbess given to ribald talk: 

I rede of an abbas |)at was a clene woman of hyr body as for dede of lechery; but scho 
had gret lust to talke |3erof So when scho was ded, scho was buryet yn J)e chyrch. And 
so, J)e ny3t aftyr, fendes token vp |)e body, and beten hyt wyth brennyng scorgys from 
l)e nauell vpward, t)at hyt was as blak as pych; but from |)e nauell donward, |3ay myght 
do no3t J)erto, for j^at part schon as \)Q sonne, (pp. 96, 11. 33-34, and 97, 11. 1-5) 

This same narrative demonstrates that the ftinction of these visible, 
bodily signs was to bear public witness to sin, to make it open and known 
to others. The dead abbess, as she was being beaten by devils, cried so loudly 
that she was heard by two living nuns of her convent. The two nuns went to 
where the body lay to see what was wrong. The abbess, though dead, was 
able to explain both her sins and her condition to them: 

Then sayde scho to hur sustren: "3e knowen well ynogh |)at I was clene mayden as for 
dede of flessche; wherfor |)at party of my body j^at was clene, J)at schynyth as 3e se now. 
But, for I had lust forto speke of fulth of \>q flessch and ojjyr rybawdy, [)erfor jjat party 
of my body JDat y s gulty, hit hajje hys penaunce as 3e seen. Wherfor I pray you l)at 3e 
pray for me; for by your prayers I may be holpen, and bul)e war by me yn tyme comyng." 
(p.97, 11. 8-15) 

The abbess's guilt is expressed externally, bodily, rather than being inte- 
riorized, and her body is then used as a public teaching device. There is no 
reflection of the private, "psychologized," directed confession of sin within 
these narratives. 

The presence of witnesses is a common element in the narratives of 
these sermons. Not infrequently, explaining the presence of witnesses and 
the conditions of witnessing becomes a significant part of the narrative. For 



18 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



example, in the story of the impoverished knight who robbed and murdered 
a merchant in order to marry a wealthy lady, Mirk could have simply told 
the story of the couple's sin, their avoidance of confession and their punish- 
ment, which was to be sent into hell with their castle and all their friends. 
Instead, Mirk introduces a witness, who miraculously survives the massacre. 
As the date foretold for God's vengeance approached — thirty years after 
the sins were committed — the knight and the lady decided to secure 
themselves inside their castle, invite all their friends and have a feast. The 
lady assures her husband that with such a plan, they "schall scape wele 
ynogh" (p. 89, 1. 3). At this point in the story, which is thirty-eight lines into 
a forty-six line text, only the principal characters have appeared: the knight, 
the lady, the merchant and God. Here Mirk introduces a harper and the ghost 
of a kitchen worker (the "brothell"), who serve, respectively, as the witness 
and the supernatural mechanism for allowing the witness to survive. The 
harper provided music during the feast, until 

. . . l)er come out of \te kychon a bro|)ell bowdet wyth gres, and rubbyd hys stryngys 
wyth hys bawdy hondys. Then was jjys harper wondyr wroth, and wyth hys harpe wold 
haue smyton thys brothell; but for he flagh fast away, \>c harper suet hym out of jje castell; 
and when he come out, |5is brothell vaneschyd away. Then l)ys harper turned a3eyne, 
and sygh Jjys castell synke ynto \)c er|)e, all on fyre. (p. 89, 11. 8-14) 

The moral intended by Mirk — namely, that one should go to confession in 
a timely manner — is specified after the narrative. The audience is advised 
not to abuse God's patience, "but bythynkyth you wele of your mysdedys, 
and comyth by tyme and clansyth you" (p. 89, 11. 1 7-1 8). The witness in this 
story serves to create a public memory of the consequence of failure to 
repent. 

A similar pattern appears in the narrative concerning the chapman who 
would not go to confession, and who, on his death bed, refused Christ's offer 
of mercy. In this story. Mirk not only provides witnesses, but he also takes 
pains to explain how the witnesses could see the events, since the divine 
visitation took place at night: "I>en had [)ys man a lampe brennyng on 
nyghtys byfor hys bed, and yn a bed bysyde hym lay oJ)er two men, to wake 
hym. Then, about mydnyght, jDay saw Ihesu Cryst bodyly wyth blody 
wondys stondyng before \)q seke manys bed" (p. 92, 11. 1-4). The conversa- 
tion between the chapman and Christ is related from the point of view of the 
witnesses. After the chapman dies, the narrative takes up the actions of the 
braver of the two witnesses: 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 1 19 



Then |)ys oJ)er man was so aferd of |)ys syght and of bojje hor speche, jjat hit was long 
or he dyd ryse. Then, at [je last, he ros vp, and lyght a candull at l)e lampe, and come to 
hys felow, and fond hym dede, and |3e red blod yn hys face, and jje body blacke as pych. 
I>en, for ferd, t)ys man cryed for helpe; and when men comen, he told hom |)e case, and 

how Cryst dyd to hym, and how he vnswared a3eyne. (p. 92, 11. 16-23) 

The moral of this narrative is the same as in the case of the knight and the 
lady: the audience is advised not to take God's grace in vain, "but schryue 
you clene of your synnes" (p. 92, 1. 25). The witnesses in this story are present 
to make public the communication between the human and the divine. Far 
from being "psychologicized," to use Bossy's term, the interplay between 
the sinner and his God, the struggle — unsuccessful in this case — to 
overcome pride so far as to confess wrongdoing, is rendered a visible drama. 
No confessor is in attendance to direct or control the exchange; the two 
principals interact unimpeded by intermediaries. The only purpose of the 
others present in the room is to tell the story to the community. 

In the active agency ascribed to the sinner by Mirk, in the absence of a 
confessor who exerts control through rigorous examination, and in the public 
nature of guilt and repentance, the Festial may be said to deviate from the 
confessional currents of its age, as scholars have found them expressed in 
canon law and confessors' manuals. The divergence probably reflects a 
difference in the intended audience. Canon law and confessors' manuals 
were intended for a clerical and monastic audience; some of the confessors' 
manuals enjoined that their texts be kept from the laity for fear that the 
descriptions of sin contained in them might inspire new transgressions.^^ 
The new program for confession advanced official public authority; it is 
hardly surprising that it is found in religious sources, which were directed 
to an elite audience. Literary works, such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, 
seem also to reflect the new, more oppressive theories of confession. 
According to Mary Flowers Braswell, the quality of "engin," that is, the 
ability to control and manipulate situations in a literary work, became less 
associated with the confessed sinner in literature as early as the thirteenth 
century, contemporaneous with the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215.^^ Like 
confessors' manuals and canon law, literary works were probably not 
accessible to the average lay person, although the lay elite certainly consti- 
tuted a target audience. It is impossible to reconstruct how much of the 
content of either literary or ecclesiastical texts reached the mass of illiterate 
laity, or even the functionally literate laity, who did not belong to the leisured 
classes and did not have a liberal education.^"* Some content may have been 



20 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



communicated through conversations with, or lectures by, clergy or lay 
people who were better educated. Some works may have been read by those 
who could as entertainment for those who could not. Nevertheless, neither 
canon law, confessors' manuals nor high-culture literary works seem to be 
the best sources for understanding what the average lay person in late 
medieval England was taught regarding confession. 

The ordinary lay person was instructed about religion in other ways, 
principally through sermons. For such people, who acquired much of their 
religious education haphazardly, through church art, plays and the liturgy, 
sermons typically constituted their only organized religious instruction, and 
it was through this medium that they acquired a great deal of their knowledge 
about Christian theology, spirituality and morality. Late medieval sermon 
collections thus constitute a valuable and under-utilized source of informa- 
tion about the ideology of confession, as it was presented to the uneducated 
laity.^^ Sermon collections written for a non-elite audience, even one as 
popular as the Festial, were denigrated by early modem critics and have 
been ignored by modem scholars.^^ The early modem bias is described in 
detail by H. Leith Spencer.^^ Spencer notes that sermons intended for a rural 
audience were considered inferior by urban audiences in early modem 
England, adding that "a sophisticated urban audience is unlikely to relish 
being addressed in a manner deemed at best suitable for yokels."^^ The class 
differences and religious polemics of reformation England render this atti- 
tude comprehensible, but the dismissive attitude of modem scholars is more 
difficult to understand. 

Peter Biller's introduction to a volume devoted to medieval confession 
is typical in its dismissive treatment of sermon literature. His chapter begins 
by quoting and commenting on a few excerpts from sermons, then explains 
that his 

introduction . . . takes these stories ... as a few rare colorful snapshots. . . . They 
constitute a prelude to . . . the next section, which concentrates on the principal surviving 
textual traces of medieval confession: church legislation, and the many works, extant in 
enormous numbers of manuscripts, which told a priest how to hear confession and 
impose penance.^^ 

The most popular sermon collections, such as Mirk's Festial, have not 
been recognized by most scholars for the potential insight they offer into the 
religious beliefs of the masses. The format of the Festial, particularly its use 
of exempla to convey meaning, has led modem scholars to dismiss it as both 
old-fashioned and inferior to much other late medieval English sermon 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 1 21 



literature."*^ For example, G. R. Owst's classic survey of medieval sermons 
refers to Mirk's work as "simple and superstitious.'"*^ Critics have pointed 
to its over-reliance on hagiography, the relative dearth of scriptural com- 
mentary, and a seeming neglect of the new devotional theories which were 
circulating at that time. In addition, the Festial has been considered less 
worthy of study than other late medieval sermon literature because Mirk 
wrote for a relatively ignorant audience — for the rural, the uneducated, the 
illiterate. Stroup's evaluation of the Festial is fairly typical: 

The characteristics of medieval preaching as seen in John Mirk's sermons begin to come 
clear and suggest reasons for their popularity with the listener of that day. For one thing, 
scripture is used in a fanciful and embellished pattern, usually by symbolic or allegorical 
means, so that it takes on the nature of a story and tends to parallel in style and emphasis 
the highly popular saints' tales and legends of the time."*^ 

Sermon scholars often seem to privilege the elements of religion associated 
with the Protestant reformation. Thus there is a tendency to evaluate the 
quality of medieval sermons according to the ratio of "reformed" versus 
"traditional" elements, in which "traditional" is typified by a story-telling 
approach and a reliance on saints' legends, while "reformed" denotes a more 
didactic, scriptural ly-based style. According to this bias, the more traditional 
a sermon, the less worthy it is of serious scholarly consideration. 

English sermon collections composed with a popular audience in mind 
almost invariably favor the traditional sermon style, which scholars have 
commented on almost exclusively in reference to its entertaining nature, 
rather than its theological content. Stroup, for example, assumes that the 
style of constructing sermons followed by Mirk, and others, was simply a 
crude mechanism to please an easily bored audience. He writes: 

One means of holding the attention of the congregation was through the introduction of 
stories, saints' tales, and legends, called "exempla." This pattern became quite typical 
of medieval sermons and was the source of much abuse by the preacher who increasingly 
indulged in flights of fancy in order to entertain rather than illustrate.^^ 

This opinion is even more strongly expressed by Owst: 

With Myrc {sic) the text of canonical scriptures would seem almost out of favour. He 
revels in the most fanciful and impossible anecdotes about sacred characters; he is 
fascinated irresistibly by the lurid and painful; he seems to offer his listeners little short 
of a new superstition and wizardry blessed by the Church, in place of the old forbidden 
paganisms to which they still cling so lovingly .'*'* 



22 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Such dismissive evaluations have been offered even by those historians who 
seem aware that the reformed style could be linked to inquisitorial control. 
Consider the appraisal provided by Jonathan Hughes of Robert Manning's 
HandlyngSynne, a fourteenth-century penitential tract which achieved local 
popularity in northern England, and which employs the same exemplum- 
based format as the Festial: 

... his main purpose seems to have been to entertain: he attempted to appeal to "lewd 
men" who listened to tales and rhymes by reducing the emphasis on penitential teaching 
and expanding the exemplas ... to provide entertaining and instructive tales on the 
deadly sins. . . . Manning therefore reveals the importance of penitential anecdotes as a 
source of entertainment and gossip for ordinary parishioners, but he reflects this interest 
too passively to be a significant pastoral figure. He does not show any inquisitorial rigor 
or pedagogic purpose and seems to have acted without any ecclesiastical supervision or 
encouragement.'*^ 

What needs to be considered is that popular sermon collections such as 
Handlyng Synne and the Festial may be more reflective of popular culture 
than penitential tracts written for more theologically sophisticated, urban 
audiences, and may thus possess even greater value for historians attempting 
to understand how religion was experienced by the majority of people in late 
medieval England, whose population was overwhelmingly rural and unedu- 
cated. 

An analysis of confession in the Festial suggests that there may have 
been compelling reasons why its theology was more attractive to those who 
were excluded from the elites, groups increasingly defined by their literacy. 
The use of exempla instead of scriptural commentary as the essential content 
of sermons can be interpreted, not as an unimaginative retention of an 
"old-fashioned" format, but as a deliberate attempt to communicate with an 
audience who would not have had the ability or opportunity to study the 
Bible. The exempla may have conveyed an image of individual Christians 
less subject to coercive, examining authority mediating between them and 
the divine. In other words, the audience, instead of being merely credulous 
and seeking to be entertained, may have found within the narratives a type 
of agency that they found appealing in the face of the encroaching powers 
of a reformed church and a more efficacious state. 

Analysis of the presentation of confession in Mirk's Festial suggests 
possibilities for reinterpreting the ideology of confession in late medieval 
and early modern Europe and provides some evidence for a high degree of 
lay autonomy in pre- reformation England. Such a case study cannot furnish 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 1 23 



conclusive answers with respect to either of these large and complex issues. 
Yet it does underline the utility of popular sermon collections in examining 
them, indicating that further study along these lines should prove fruitful. 
Moreover, it reinforces the notion that historical developments such as the 
reformation were not linear, and that recovering either the persistence of 
older ideas or the resistance to newer ones among any segment of the 
population adds to a more accurate reconstruction of the past."*^ 

Texas A&M University — Commerce 

Notes 

1 . Johannes Mirkus (John Mirk), Mirk 's Festial: A Collection of Homilies, ed. Theodor Erbe 
(London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner for the Early EngHsh Text Society, 1905), p. 90, 
Hnes 15-26. References to this edition, by page and line numbers, will henceforth appear 
within parentheses in the text. 

2. This paper is based upon an edition of a Group A text of the Festial, which was by far the 
most common form of compilation. For an explanation of the A and B groups of extant 
manuscripts of the text, see Susan Powell, "John Mirk's Festial and the Pastoral Pro- 
gramme," Leeds Studies in English, n.s. 22 (1991): 85-102. For a discussion of the 
composition and purpose of the Festial, see Powell, pp. 85-86, and Herbert W. Stroup,"John 
Mirk: Tutor to England's Medieval Preachers," The Bulletin 47.3 (Summer 1967): 26. 

3. The scholarly work on this topic is voluminous. Some of the works most illustrative of the 
two broad schools of interpretation are: Claire Cross, The Church and People 1 450- J 660: 
The Triumph of the Laity in the English Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 
1976); Arthur G. Dickens, The English Reformation, 2nd ed. (London: Batsford Press, 
1989); Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 
c.l400-<:. 1580 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1 992); Peter Heath, The English Parish 
Clergy on the Eve of the Reformation (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul; Toronto: 
University of Toronto Press, 1 969); John J. Scarisbrick, The Reformation and the English 
People (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984); and Robert Whiting, The Blind Devotion of the 
People: Popular Religion and the English Reformation, Cambridge Studies in Early 
Modem British History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). A useful sum- 
mary to the beginning of this decade may be found in the bibliographic review by Peter 
Heath, "Between Reform and Reformation: the English Church in the Fourteenth and 
Fifteenth Centuries," Journal of Ecclesiastical History A\ (1990): 647-78. 

4. A clear and detailed explanation of this focus may be found in Christopher Haigh, English 
Reformations: Religion, Politics and Society under the Tudors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 
1993). 

5. Confession, although as one of the sacraments clearly intended to be a means of attaining 
grace, was viewed by the church as a vital occasion of instruction and correction, especially 
during the late Middle Ages: William Pantin, The English Church in the Fourteenth Century 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955), 192. 



24 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



6. There is some scholarly disagreement concerning the chronology of this transformation, 
with some scholars favoring as the most significant point of divergence the legislation of 
the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), specifically the decree Omnis utriusque which made 
annual confession to one's parish priest mandatory, and other scholars arguing that more 
meaningful changes in practice occurred during the reformations of the sixteenth century. 
A brief discussion of the controversy over chronology may be found in Peter Biller, 
"Confession in the Middle Ages: Introduction," in Handling Sin: Confession in the Middle 
Ages, ed. Peter Biller and A. J. Minnis, York Studies in Medieval Theology, 2 (Woodbridge, 
Suffolk: York Medieval Press in association with The Boydell Press, 1998), p. 30. Recently, 
there have been efforts to suggest that real change developed gradually between these two 
points of discontinuity, becoming noticeable in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 
For example, see Jonathan Hughes, "The Administration of Confession in the Diocese of 
York in the Fourteenth Century," in Studies in Clergy and Ministry in Medieval England, 
ed. David M. Smith, Purvis Seminar Studies, Borthwick Studies in History, 1 (York: 
University of York, 1991). 

7. Pantin, p. 192. 

8. For the FestiaVs popularity, see Powell, pp. 87 and 93. 

9. Although one might question the impact a Parisian theologian such as Gerson might have 
on developments in England, his theology is generally recognized as having a profound 
influence on confessional theory throughout Europe. John Bossy, for example, charac- 
terizes Gerson as "a real pathfinder" {Christianity in the West, 1400-1 700 [Oxford: Oxford 
University Press, 1985], pp. 48-49). Biller goes so far as to use Gerson as the main point 
of demarcation, using the phrase "the pre-Gerson Church" (p. 16). Thomas N. Tentler 
remarked of Gerson that "[h]is is the greatest voice in the cure of souls" {Sin and Confession 
on the Eve of the Reformation [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977], p. 46). An 
English example of Gerson's influence may be found in William Lynwood's Provinciate 
sen constitutiones Angliae (c. 1422-1430), probably the most influential work on confes- 
sion in England during the fifteenth century, which emphasized the inquisitorial role of the 
confessor rather than his teaching ftinction (Hughes, p. 104). 

10. Brian Patrick McGuire, "Education, Confession and Pious Fraud: Jean Gerson and a Late 
Medieval Change," American Benedictine Review 47.3 (1996): 311. 

11. /6/ûf., p. 320. 

12. Ibid. 

13. /^/c/.,p. 334. 

14. Ibid, p. 338. 

15. See, for example, Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. 
Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977). 

16. Foucault, p. 227. 

17. John Bossy, "The Social History of Confession in the Age of the Reformation," Transac- 
tions of the Royal Historical Society 25 (1975): 26. 

18. Ibid, p. 12-11. 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 1 25 



19. Ibid., p. 24. 

20. Ibid., ip. 29. 

21. Hughes, pp. 109-10. 

22. Ibid.,ip. 101. 

23. Ibid, p. 124. 



24. Ibid,^. 101. 
25./6/V/.,p. 117. 

26. /6/û^.,p. 111. 

27. The theory of confession during the Carolingian period, particularly as expressed by Alcuin 
of York, is analyzed by Michael S. Driscoll in "Penance in Transition: Popular Piety and 
Practice," in Medieval Liturgy: A Book of Essays, ed. Lizette Larson Miller, Garland 
Medieval Casebooks, vol. 18 (New York: Garland Publishing, 1997). According to Dris- 
coll, the penitential practices of Celtic monks in the sixth and seventh centuries were 
combined with Germanic legal traditions of the same period to become a fully-formed 
theory of sacramental confession during the Carolingian renaissance, articulated by such 
influential theologians as Alcuin of York (ca. 735-804). The Celtic monks confessed their 
sins to one another, and imposed the penances listed in the penitential books as appropriate 
for the specific sin committed. They looked upon each penance as a medicine which 
corresponded to a specific illness. The Germanic legal traditions of the Early Middle Ages 
which were combined with Celtic confessional practices revolved around wehrgeld, a 
reciprocal system wherein one party suffered the punishment a paying a fine in what was 
supposed to be exact proportion to the wrong that party had inflicted on another party. In 
other words, penitential compensation had to be made to God in rough equivalency to the 
injury or insult caused by the sin. According to Biller, the analogy of a confessor to a 
physician of the body was ancient and had been applied to Christ by the early church fathers. 
It was also used in the decree Omnis utriusque of the Fourth Lateran Council (Biller, pp. 
7-8). 

28. Examples can be found both in very early penitential literature and in works contemporary 
with Mirk's Festial. For example, in the eighth century, Alcuin of York wrote: "By contrast, 
it is all the more necessary to attach yourself to the remedy of confession. Oh sinner, 
otherwise you will rot in the gangrene of your wounds, if you blush to uncover to the doctor 
the multiple aches of your ulcers" (cited in Driscoll, p. 145 pDriscoll's translation]). During 
the fourteenth century, William of Pagula, Richard Rolle and John Burgo, all authors of 
penitential literature popular in England, compared the confessor to a doctor removing 
poison from a wound (Hughes, p. 1 1 8). 

29. The advisability of frequent confession is common in Mirk. Consider this directive in the 
sermon for Advent Sunday: "And for dred of deth he mot make hym redy to his God, when 
he woll send aftyr hym, [)at ys: schryuen of his synnys, and allway kepc his concyens clene 
not forto abyde from lenton to lenton, but as sone as he felej)e |)at he hath synnet, anoon 
goo schryue hym . . ." (p. 2, 11. 10-15). 

30. For example, Caesar's Dialogue of Miracles (c. 1223) (Biller, pp. 4-5). 



26 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



3 1 . See Alexander Murray, "Counseling in Medieval Confession," in Biller and Minnis, eds., 
p. 75. 

32. During the late Middle Ages there was a body of literature being created for the elite, 
educated layman who employed a personal confessor, which might be called guides for the 
examination of conscience. These works were not accessible to the average person. For a 
discussion of these works, see Hughes, pa^j/m. 

33. Mary Flowers Braswell, The Medieval Sinner: Characterization and Confession in the 
Literature of the English Middle Ages (London: Associated University Press, 1983), pp. 
12-13. The scholar who coined the term "engin" for this meaning is Robert W. Hanning; 
he is paraphrased by Braswell. 

34. The possibility that exposure to works of a more literary or scholarly nature on the part of 
certain members of the peasantry might have been considerable, at least by the sixteenth 
century, is discussed in Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a 
Sixteenth-Century Miller, trans. John and Anne Tedeschi (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins 
University Press, 1992). 

35. The questions posed of medieval sermon literature have lately increased in both number 
and complexity. In the introduction to a recent volume on medieval sermons, Nicole Beriou 
comments: "Older studies of medieval sermons usually concentrated on such topics as the 
history of preaching itself, the relation of preaching to technical treatises on how to do it 
(the artes praedicandi), the anecdotal detail about social practice which sermons inciden- 
tally reveal, mystical content (in the case of German vernacular sermons), sermons as 
sources for vernacular literature, and on the bio-bibliography of individual preachers. These 
are good questions, still worth asking. Among the questions which modem historians like 
to ask, about the Middle Ages among other periods but not especially about sermons, are 
some which nevertheless draw interesting answers from this class of evidence. Questions 
about systems of communication, about attitudes to marriage, death, the body, sanctity, 
and women, questions stimulated by literary and philosophical theory — these have been 
at the forefront of many historians' minds in recent decades" (Introd., Modern Questions 
about Medieval Sermons: Essays on Marriage, Death, History and Sancity, ed. Nicole 
Beriou and David L. D'Avray, Biblioteca Di "Medioevo Latino," 1 1 [Spoleto: Centro 
Italiano di Studi SuU'Alto Medioevo, 1994], ix). Although the questions are changing, the 
focus of scholarship is still far more on Latin than on vernacular sermons, as the contribu- 
tions in Beriou and D'Avray's volume indicate. 

36. Powell has traced the development of the Festial from Mirk's composition of the 1380s 
through a final printing by Wynkyn de Worde in 1532. She also notes that ecclesiastical 
records document an English preacher as using the Festial as late as 1 589, although, as she 
comments, with unfortunate results for the preacher (Powell, pp. 92-93). 

37. H. Leith Spencer, English Preaching in the Late Middle Ages (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 
1993), pp. 31 1-26. 

38. Ibid,ip.2A\. 

39. Biller, p. 7. One work which employs exempla as an historical source, albeit to a small 
degree, is A. Murray, "Confession as a Historical Source in the Thirteenth Century," in The 



Judy Ann Ford / Images of Confession in Mirk's Festial 1 27 



Writing of History in the Middle Ages, ed. R. H. C. Davis and J. M. Walace-Hadrill (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1 98 1 ), pp. 275-322. 

40. This bias is described in detail in Spencer, pp. 3 1 1-26. Spencer demonstrates that sermons 
intended for the rural audience were considered inferior by urban audiences in early modem 
England, noting that "a sophisticated urban audience is unlikely to relish being addressed 
in a manner deemed at best suitable for yokels" (p. 241). 

41. G.R. Owst, Preaching in Medieval England: An Introduction to Sermon Manuscripts of 
the Période. 1350-1450 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1926), p. 22. 

42. Stroup, p. 35. 

43. Ibid, p. 32. 

44. Owst, p. 245. 

45. Hughes, pp. 92-93. 

46. Haigh stresses the non-linear nature of historical developments related to the reformations 
(pp. 12-21 et passim). 



Faking It: A Case of 

Counterfeit Possession in 

the Reign of James I^ 



RICHARD 
RAISWELL 



Résumé : En 1622, au printemps, l'adolescente Katheren Malpas, sa mère et 
ses grands-parents du côté maternel ont été inculpés dans le Star Chamber pour 
avoir cyniquement organisé une possession démoniaque frauduleuse afin de 
profiter de la charité de leurs voisins. En puisant dans le procès -verbal détaillé, 
le présent article reconstruit le mécanisme de l'imposture et attribue son écrou- 
lement à une tension épistémologique. Les comploteurs ont été coincés entre les 
exigences du discours démoniaque populaire et le besoin, déplus en plus imposé 
par l'état depuis le cas notoire de Mary Glover, de fournir des preuves des 
phénomènes surnaturels. D'ailleurs, la composition sociale changeante de la 
paroisse, qui autrefois était largement rurale, faisait en sorte qu 'ils avaient deux 
publics à satisfaire simulanément. De cette contradiction inhérente dans leur 
entreprise découlait son échec. 

In the spring of 1622, Thomas Saunders, described as a yeoman of Upton, 
in the parish of West Ham, Essex, his wife Elizabeth and their daughter 
Katheren Malpas Senior were examined in Star Chamber in front of Sir 
Thomas Coventry, the Attorney General.^ The three of them were charged 
with persuading, procuring and inciting Katheren Malpas the younger — the 
daughter of Katheren Malpas Senior — "to counterfeite and fayne her selfe 
to be bewitched and possessed wi**^ an evill spirite, and to counterfeite and 
faiyne certaine strange fitts and traunces"^ (STAC 8 32/13 f. 180. While 
cases of counterfeit possession were not uncommon in the later Tudor and 
early Stuart period, what is unusual here is that Elizabeth Saunders admitted 
that she concocted the whole scheme "to gayne & gett money for the better 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 3 (1999) /29 



30 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



mantaynance of the A foresaid K atheren Malpas the younger her mother & 
sister & not for any other intent or purpose" (STAC 8 32/13 f. 12^ q. 14). But 
given that the Attorney General seems to have been prepared to accept that 
the sums garnered were small, and likely completely off-set by the expenses 
incurred trying to publicise the case, why did this petty fraud end up being 
heard in front of one of the highest courts in the country? 

I 

Demonological possession is a curious issue. Although modem epistemol- 
ogy has little place for supernatural causation, most people of early seven- 
teenth-century England believed it to be a physical possibility confirmed 
both by Scripture and historical precedent. As a valid and sufficient explan- 
atory category for a series of closely-defined phenomena, possession served 
as a fundamental intellectual filter through which men and women thought. 
By asking how and in what context they came to diagnose possession and 
by assessing how people peripheral to the central drama reacted to such 
instances, it is possible to reconstruct an important part of their intellectual 
apparatus and to catch a glimpse of the social dynamics which facilitated 
and fostered such a mode of explanation. From this perspective, then, 
possession can be treated as a cultural product, taking its meaning and 
content from the more general intellectual and social structures of society. 
Thus, a close analysis of instances of possession ought to highlight some of 
the fundamental intellectual preconditions of causality in popular physics 
and metaphysics."^ Unfortunately, though, the extant record does not easily 
lend itself to such a mode of analysis. 

Hitherto, the historiography of possession and the ancillary field of 
witchcraft in England has relied heavily on contemporary pamphlets and 
court records. However, as sources for intellectual culture, both are some- 
what deficient. In the first place, pamphlets written about particularly infa- 
mous demoniacs or witches are frequently highly sensational. While they 
generally purport to represent events as closely as possible, they were printed 
primarily to sell. As such, didactic morality and the need for sensational 
drama may well colour significant portions of the text in ways which are not 
readily apparent. James Cockbum has found serious discrepancies between 
the pamphlet account of the trial of Agnes Waterhouse in 1566 and the assize 
record of the case, despite the fact that the author of the pamphlet assures 
the reader that his account is "verbatum as nere as coulde be gathered."^ 



Richard Raiswell / A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James 1/31 



On the other hand, the legal record is equally problematic. Although a 
large number of witchcraft indictments survive from the Elizabethan and 
Jacobean periods, these are generally vague and formulaic and limit them- 
selves primarily to the names and occupations of the parties, together with 
the date and place of the alleged offence. Where the felony itself is described, 
this is generally done very superficially and only insofar as the specific 
details are relevant to the charge. Yet even some of these basic details seem 
to have been manufactured by over-anxious clerks, for it was not uncommon 
for indictments deficient in any of the details prescribed by common law to 
be rejected by assize judges.^ As a result, the indictment records lend 
themselves only to large-scale statistical analyses like that done for Essex 
by Alan Macfarlane. While this analysis has allowed Macfarlane to develop 
a portrait of the archetypal Essex witch and has helped him assess the context 
in which she came to the attention of the authorities,^ it says little about the 
social or intellectual situation which caused the witch's contemporaries to 
resort to a supernatural discourse to explain her actions. Moreover, such an 
approach yields nothing about the actual content of this discourse. In the 
context of a crime in which so much must have occurred only in the mind, 
this is surely quite an acute problem. 

In contradistinction to these sources, the records of the Jacobean court 
of Star Chamber offer a largely unexplored opportunity. While the court was 
widely criticised by contemporaries for its inquisitorial procedure, its records 
are consequently unusually rich in detail, for defendants were obliged to 
supply written answers to each specific point in the interrogatories posed to 
them. Indeed, of the three phases of a Star Chamber trial, the first two had 
to be written. Moreover, as was not the case with proceedings at common 
law, defendants had to furnish their answers under oath.^ But because Star 
Chamber was a prerogative court and tended to deal with cases for which 
there was no statutory provision, only four witchcraft-related trials were held 
in the Star Chamber under James .^ Of these, the approximately twelve-hun- 
dred lines of text outlining the case against Thomas and Elizabeth Saunders 
and their daughter Katheren Malpas Senior furnish enough detail to facilitate 
the reconstruction of the social and intellectual context in which the younger 
Katheren performed her possession in early 1621. 

Besides betraying the content of one family's perception of contempo- 
rary demonology, the circumstances leading to the collapse of the imposture 
underscore the tension inherent in the scheme as a result of the need for the 
content of Katheren's possession to conform to both popular and learned 



32 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



demonological discourse. In order to establish the possession, the conspira- 
tors needed to tailor their fraud to conform to the epistemology of their social 
and geographic peers. Yet, to make the scheme lucrative, they needed to 
seduce some of the increasing number of gentry moving into the parish from 
London. Beyond a fairly standard inventory of symptoms, the understanding 
of demonology of the two groups imposed competing demands on the 
demoniac herself: the learned argued that natural causation be eliminated as 
an explanation for Katheren's behaviour, while her neighbours prompted her 
to name the witch who tormented her. But it was likely the fact that Thomas 
sought to engage the services of a number of Puritan ministers to dispossess 
his granddaughter that brought the matter to the attention of the Attorney 
General. In a heavily Puritan region like Essex, it is hardly surprising that 
Thomas sought to use Puritan divines to secure the veracity of the imposture. 
But possession had been used to great effect as propaganda by both sides of 
the non-conformist religious spectrum to the detriment of the official church. 
As a result, the state had imposed a new, more rigorous and exacting burden 
of proof for demoniacs to meet. Thus, Katheren and her grandmother were 
examined by the king himself, and then prosecuted in Star Chamber, because 
the state feared that their charade might be subsumed into the religious and 
political struggle being waged against the crown for authority in matters of 
religion. 

n 

Elizabeth Saunders admitted that in about December 1620 she persuaded 
Katheren Malpas the younger to pretend to be possessed; she states that the 
imposture was her idea alone and that her husband did not find out about it 
until some time later. In early February 1621, Katheren threw her first fit. 
According to Elizabeth, Katheren "woulde have a risinge upp in her 
stomacke to the bignes of a halfe penny loafe & would beat her heade against 
the wainscotte <ante correctionem: wall> & would shrugge up her shoulders 
& woulde make her boanes to crackle wi* in her skyne & <ante corr: would 
have> some tymes her mouth would be drawne on one side"(STAC 8 32/13 
f. 10^, q. 4). In her answers, Katheren Senior described her daughter's fits 
as being consistent with the palsy: she would shake violently and foam at 
the mouth; her body and limbs would become rigid. Furthermore, the lump 
in her stomach would periodically shoot visibly across her torso into her neck 
or her arms (STAC 8 32/13 f. T, q.4.). 



Richard Raiswell / A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James 1/33 



Compared to the accounts of the fits of other demoniacs presented in 
the pamphlet literature, Katheren's inventory of symptoms is fairly conven- 
tional. Martha Brossier, a French demoniac who was the subject of a brief 
tract englished in 1599, used to throw herself around, make her body shake, 
gnash her teeth and contort her face.^^ Mary Glover, a London demoniac 
dispossessed by six Puritan preachers in 1602, would toss her head about, 
shrug up her shoulders and contort her eyes, mouth and hands. Like 
Katheren, she also suffered torment in her limbs and a curious swelling in 
her belly. ^^ That this lump in Katheren is described as roving through her 
person is also consistent with the symptoms of other demoniacs. It was a 
device used to great advantage by William Sommers, a Nottingham demo- 
niac, in 1598, until a more sceptical bystander discovered that Sommers had 
effected the illusion simply by moving his clenched fist around under the 
bed sheets. ^2 j^ fact, the symptom was sufficiently paradigmatic that during 
the fraudulent possession scene at the end of The Devil is an Ass (1616), Ben 
Jonson has the character of Fitzdottrel manufacture the illusion by allowing 
a mouse held under the sheets to run across his chest. ^^ 

That the spectacle of Katheren' s possession was decidedly similar to 
cases described in the pamphlet literature suggests that she drew from a 
widely known and understood inventory of symptoms to craft her imposture. 
While undoubtedly many of these symptoms have scriptural precedent, the 
content of demonic fits had become progressively more sophisticated 
through the sixteenth century. As a result, it was incumbent upon Katheren 
to supplement these biblical symptoms of possession with current percep- 
tions of demonic behaviour if her imposture was ever to be credited by her 
neighbours. Indeed, the paucity of scripturally-sanctioned symptoms of 
possession was recognised by the priests who held seven people captive at 
Denham in late 1585, trying to convince them that they were possessed. Sara 
Williams, one of the victims of this scheme, notes that it was the ordinary 
custom of the priests to be talking about the fits of the demoniacs they had 
encountered on the continent. In this way, Sara states, she learned how she 
could best please her captors and embellished her fits accordingly.^"* Indeed, 
the inventory of symptoms was sufficiently well known that Pug, the demon 
at the centre of Jonson's play, lists a few of the more common ones. He says 
to Fitzdottrel, "[I will] teach you such tricks, to make your belly swell, / And 
your eyes turn, to foam, to stare, to gnash / Your teeth together, and to beat 
yourself, / Laugh loud, and feign six voices." ^^ That Jonson specifies such 
signs as diagnostic of possession in the context of a satire written for public 



34 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



performance underscores the fact that there was an expected pattern of 
behaviour for demoniacs. 

In their pleadings, Thomas and Katheren Senior took great pains to point 
out that they could not tell if the younger Katheren's fits were feigned. While 
this was arguably their only defence, it does not seem unreasonable to 
conclude that neither was privy to Elizabeth's scheme at its inception. 
Katheren Senior was living on Verie Olde Fish Street in the parish of St. 
Mary Magdalen in London with her husband (STAC, 8 32/13 f. V). In the 
previous year, she had seen her daughter only once and did not return to see 
her again until some five or six weeks after the fits began; this would 
probably have been about the middle of March 1621 (STAC, 8 32/13 f. 1^, 
q. 5). Nevertheless, that she was eventually accused of complicity in the 
scheme suggests that she was not completely devoid of blame, for the 
specific accusations of the Attorney -General were based upon the testimony 
of her daughter during her examination by the king. 

Thomas's knowledge of the imposture is a different matter, for his 
testimony is inconsistent and, at times, defies credulity. In his response to 
the Attorney-General's interrogatories, Thomas states that he never knew 
that Katheren counterfeited her possession; in fact, he goes so far as to argue 
that he had no idea that any suspicion had alighted on Katheren as late as the 
day before she was summoned before the king (STAC 8 32/13 f. 4'", q. 1; f. 
5^, q. 9; f . 5*", q. 1 2 and f . 7^, q. 22) ! His denial does not ring true in the context 
of his wife's confession, for although Elizabeth Saunders states that Thomas 
was not involved at the scheme's inception, she makes it clear that he was 
later a willing participant. However, her testimony is inconsistent about 
when and how he found out. To fall back again on the interrogatories of the 
Attorney-General, what seems to have happened is that, at some point early in 
the imposture, Thomas overheard Elizabeth Saunders chastising Elizabeth 
Malpas, Katheren's sister, for accusing Katheren of counterfeiting her fits. 
While Thomas admits that he heard this conversation, only six lines later in his 
testimony he again denies that he ever knew that Katheren's possession was 
fraudulent (STAC 8 32/13 f. 5^ q. 9 and f. 1 P, q. 9). According to the Attorney 
General, Thomas was initially furious with his granddaughter. Later, though, 
when he saw many people, including certain "persons of qualitee," coming to 
visit Katheren and giving her money out of pity, he underwent a profound 
change of heart (STAC 8 32/13 f. 9^ q. 10, q.ll and f. 160. 

By the early seventeenth century, there were far more such persons of 
quality resident in the parish of West Ham. As the population of London grew 



Richard Rai swell / A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James 1/35 



rapidly through the sixteenth century, the resulting overcrowding, with all 
of the attendant social and sanitary problems, caused an increasing number 
of the city's affluent to flee to the comparative peace and cleanliness of the 
near-by countryside.^^ As a result, the social constitution of West Ham 
underwent quite a dramatic conversion, as the likes of the wealthy merchant 
Sir Thomas Lodge and the jurist Sir Edward Coke took up residence in the 
parish. It is not at all unlikely, then, that Thomas saw Katheren's imposture 
as an ideal vehicle to exploit this new influx of wealth. 

In order to maximise the alms given to her, Thomas, likely with the 
conscious collusion of Katheren Senior, determined to spread the news that 
the younger Katheren was "stranglie visited." According to Elizabeth Saunders, 
the story was current throughout the parish within three weeks (STAC 8 
32/13 f. 12^ q. 14). That the news spread so fast, Daniel Walker argues, was 
due to the intrinsic appeal cases of possession held for most people; they 
were common enough to understand but still sufficiently rare to be an 
exciting novelty. ^^ But to a seventeenth-century public, possession was more 
than this; in a very tangible sense, it was a manifestation in microcosm of 
the ultimate struggle between God and the Devil. As such, it was a clear and 
unambiguous eschatological sign. Indeed, the development of a possession 
foreshadowed precisely the progression of events leading up to the end of 
history. The rage and fury of the demon, together with the pain of the 
demoniac, served to personalise the profound intensity of this ultimate 
conflict. Thus, cases of demonological possession afforded observers an 
opportunity to watch a scaled-down enactment of Revelation, complete with 
its attendant horrors. ^^ 

III 

Some idea of the intensity that possession aroused in people's minds can be 
gleaned from the pamphlets written about particularly notable cases. A 
particularly vivid example of this comes from John Swan, writing in 1603 
about the dispossession of Mary Glover. In Swan's narrative, the struggle 
between the demon and the preachers engaged to pray and fast with Mary 
comes to assume almost Manichaean proportions. Vividly, Swan portrays 
the ministers and the audience as praying so that they might see Christ 
"overcome Leviathan and that he should walk upon the Lion (that seeks to 
devour us) and adder and tread the young dragon under his feet."'^ But 
Swan's description of Mary's possession also has an intimacy for its audi- 
ence, for the struggle takes place in a familiar place, in someone with whom 



36 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



the audience can empathise. Indeed, Swan goes to some length to situate the 
demonic in the context of the mundane; for instance, he mentions that the 
dispossession occurred at the house of one Mistress Ratcliffe in Shoreditch, 
and he describes its interior in some detail. Moreover, he records the time 
each prayer session began and notes the specific effects of the prayers on 
Mary.2^ Clearly then, visiting a demoniac was more than a pleasant 
afternoon's entertainment. It was a manifestation of the ultimate drama, 
acted out in an individual and situated in a largely familiar context. Stephen 
Greenblatt argues that the effect of this peculiar blend of intimacy and 
apocalypticism-in-microcosm was to instil a sense of stunned awe and acute 
wonder in the minds of those who beheld it.^* This awe, he suggests, is a 
product of the juxtaposition of the demoniac and her environment: the more 
familiar or apparently mundane the physical setting for the possession, the 
sharper the juxtaposition with the spectacle.^^ But to supplement and com- 
pound the effects of this juxtaposition in the minds of their viewers, it was 
important for Thomas and Elizabeth Saunders to provide an interpretative 
commentary on Katheren's fits. As familiar members of the community, 
Thomas and Elizabeth worked to explain Katheren's every action within an 
eschatological framework. They reinforced the domestication of the posses- 
sion by exploiting their social position and its concomitant parochial net- 
works of trust in a deliberate attempt to suspend the possibility of natural 
explanation in the minds of those who came to witness the spectacle. 

The influence of the concomitant commentary in cases of possession 
was a problem widely appreciated at the time. In his 1627 Guide to Grand 
lury Men, Richard Bernard warned prospective Grand Jurymen against 
leaving themselves vulnerable to deception; they ought not to be too trusting 
of reports of possession which came to them second-hand, regardless of the 
source. Moreover, he shows himself all too familiar with the effect that the 
peculiar, placed in the context of the mundane, had on its observer, for he 
stresses that Grand Jurymen should avoid jumping to rash conclusions when 
first confronted by the full horror and spectacle of a demoniac's fits.^^ 
Bernard argues that observers presented with a well-executed dumb-show 
specifically calculated to elicit awe, together with an interpretative narrative 
furnished by a known and trusted peer, tend to be all too prepared to suspend 
rational credulity. As a result, the observer relocates the spectacle within the 
narrow confines of an eschatological explanatory discourse. The effect of 
the performance, Bernard laments, is such that, "when people come to see 
such supposed to be possessed by a Divell or Divels; some are filled with 



Richard Rai swell / A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James 1/37 



fancyfull imaginations; some are possessed with feare; so, as they at first 
time, on a sudden, thinke they heare and see more then they doe, and so make 
very strange relations without truth, if they take not time."^^ Again, Jonson's 
satire underscores this point, for part of the problem with Fitzdottrel's 
demonic fits is that their authenticity is supported by the learning and 
reputation of no less a person than a judge.^^ 

As the illusion is aggressively manipulated by the performers and 
commentators, the intensity of the possession grows in the minds of the 
beholders. It is probably not that those who reported Katheren's possession 
deliberately embellished the truth; rather, as for the mediaeval author of a 
saint's life, one or two rather innocuous examples of the fantastic tended to 
add credence to those more incredible events which have not been directly 
witnessed. As a result, at least in the immediate environment of the demo- 
niac, rational credulity tends to be impeded by an intellectual filter that 
favours an eschatological interpretation. All events taking place in and 
around the possessed party must now pass through this filter; thus, coinci- 
dences and otherwise mundane events come to be invested with a signifi- 
cance they would otherwise lack. With the "fact" of possession proven in 
the minds of her audience and those who heard about it from familiar and 
hitherto trusted sources, every action in the immediate physical vicinity of 
the demoniac is invested with eschatological significance. 

IV 

As the size of her audience grew and she became more comfortable in her 
performance, Katheren began to embellish her fits on her own. For example, 
when a bible or religious book was brought to her, she would fling it across 
the room. Although Elizabeth Saunders denied that Katheren announced that 
her devil would not suffer her to read it, this was clearly what her audience 
was supposed to think. Indeed, Elizabeth herself admits that Katheren' s 
actions were consistent with one possessed by an evil spirit (STAC 8 32/13 
f. IP, q. 12; f. IS'^ and f. 6^ q. 15). Interestingly, Katheren Senior, Thomas 
and Elizabeth all deny having taught her to do this; given Elizabeth's 
apparent willingness to confess to helping her refine other aspects of her 
performance, there seems little reason to doubt this testimony. 

That Katheren made this innovation herself is highly significant; for, 
just as her fits and their interpretation combined to suspend disbelief in her 
audience, so she had to tailor her performance to conform to their expecta- 
tions. Casting aside Scripture and prayer books was a common feature in 



38 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



many possessions ;2^ thus, where this symptom was absent, the audience 
would demand that it be tested. It would be quite clear to the demoniac how 
she ought to react. It is as if the dynamic between the demoniac and her 
audience privileges only a very limited interpretation of events, for when the 
demoniac claims something beyond the confines of the explanatory dis- 
course, the audience tends to demand a measure of reinterpretation. For 
instance, when Helen Fairfax thought that she saw a vision of God in the 
course of one of her fits, her family tried to convince her that she was actually 
being deceived by her devil. As a result, when the same vision recurred four 
days later, horns sprouted from the head of her previously beatific vision.^^ 
A vision of God was not consistent with her audience's perception of the 
course of possession, and so they demanded it be reinterpreted; the demoniac 
obliged. 

Counterfeit possession, then, was akin to Commedia dell' arte: the 
demoniac had to work within an accepted framework that had been devel- 
oped and refined over time. She had to draw on a traditional inventory of 
symptoms, which owed as much to the sensational accounts of possession 
described in the pamphlet literature as they did to popular belief or Scripture. 
Although the specific dialogue was left unwritten, the progression of the 
imposture was predetermined by tradition and by its inherent apocalyptic- 
ism. 

As persons of quality from the wider parish began to descend on their 
modest dwelling, Thomas realised that the interpretative commentary fur- 
nished by the Saunders family alone was no longer adequate. If the imposture 
was to be maintained in the minds of a more learned and wealthy audience, 
it was vital to secure an independent interpretative commentary from one of 
greater social or intellectual repute. To this end, Katheren Senior petitioned 
the Bishop of London for a licence to hire preachers to pray with her daughter 
(STAC 8 32/13 f. 6^ q. 16 and f. 2\ q. 16). 

Dispossession had been a controversial issue since the middle of the 
sixteenth century when exorcism was removed from the English rite.^^ 
Although the state church considered it to be an idolatrous ceremony without 
biblical sanction, the demand for spiritual relief from supernatural affliction 
did not cease. Indeed, the public nature of exorcisms made them ideal 
vehicles for Catholic propaganda; once the notion of possession was securely 
implanted in the minds of the audience, successful dispossessions became 
moving testimonies to the power of the true faith. As Samuel Harsnett notes, 
this is precisely what the Jesuits did at Denham after convincing seven 



Richard Raiswell / A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James 1/39 



youths that they were possessed. In front of large audiences, these Jesuits 
demonstrated how the demoniacs could not endure the sight of priests or 
relics, how they could not cross themselves and how they would cry out when 
holy water was poured on them.^^ As a result of the devil's apparent distress 
when confronted with such overtly Catholic trappings, Harsnett argues that 
some four to five thousand people were reconciled to the Roman usage. ^^ 

To counter such Catholic successes, the Puritans also turned their 
attention to dispossession. Rather than staging formal exorcisms, however, 
the Puritan propagandists seized upon the account in the Gospel of Mark 
where Christ relieved a possessed youth of an evil spirit through prayer and 
fasting (Mark 9: 14-29). While prayer and fasting did not actually command 
God to dispossess the demoniac, the practice provided a measure of relief, 
insofar as it accorded with God's glory and the good of the possessed.^ ^ As 
the Puritans drifted further from the state church, dispossession by such 
means came to be construed as a means of validating Puritanism. And, as it 
did for the Catholics, the devil's discomfort during a dispossession won the 
Puritan programme much popular support. For the state church, then, dis- 
possession was an issue which could not easily be divorced from politics. 

Indeed, the political subtext to the debate was clearly underscored in 
the late autumn of 1602 with the possession of Mary Glover. Mary, the 
teenage daughter of a London shopkeeper, accused one Elizabeth Jackson 
of bewitching her. The publicity around Jackson's subsequent trial polarised 
religious sentiment in London. The state, through Dr. Edward Jorden, tried 
to assert that Mary's illness was natural. However, when asked by Judge 
Anderson to prove conclusively that this was actually the case, the doctor 
was unable to do so. Consequently, Anderson gave the benefit of the doubt 
to the preternatural and convicted Jackson. With the veracity of Mary's 
possession established at law, six Puritan preachers sought immediately to 
capitalise on the notoriety of the case and succeeded in dispossessing her in 
front of an enthusiastic audience of potential converts in December 1602.^^ 

It was to prevent another such defeat in the propaganda war against the 
Puritans that the state church issued Canon 72, in the 1604 Constitutiones 
sive Canones Ecclesiastici, outlawing dispossession by prayer and fasting 
without a licence granted from a diocesan bishop under pain of excommu- 
nication.^^ As bishops were generally none too sympathetic towards the 
Puritan agenda, this canon amounted to an attempt to end the use of 
dispossession as religious propaganda. Within this context, then, it is very 



40 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



peculiar that Bishop King granted Katheren Senior a licence to secure 
preachers. 

Thomas and Katheren Senior used this licence to procure the services 
of Mr. Jennings, the Vicar of West Ham, and one Mr. Holbrooke, described 
as the parish lector. While the sources are silent about Jennings, William 
Holbrooke was a popular and outspoken Puritan preacher and, as a result, 
found himself afoul of the ecclesiastical authorities, being put on probation 
for nonconformity in 1617. But despite his repeated injunctions against 
unsavoury speech, plays, taverns, bawdy houses, roguish musicians, ballads 
and wanton sonnets, Holbrooke enjoyed much public esteem; indeed, he was 
appointed vicar of All Saints' Church in West Ham by popular choice.^"^ 
Thus, in a scene not unreminiscent of Mary Glover's deliverance, Jennings 
and Holbrooke, together with Mr. and Mrs. Fawcett, a Mr. Adister and his 
wife, and a number of other people from the parish, prayed for Katheren's 
delivery around Easter Week. Elizabeth notes that the size of the audience 
present was not insignificant (STAC 8 32/13 f. 11^, q. 13). 

Although all that is known about Samuel Adister is that he was acquitted 
of stealing a horse worth £9 in 1622.^^ William Fawcett seems to have been 
a man of somewhat better repute. Though a resident of Upton, Fawcett was 
bom in Yorkshire and had previously lived in London. As such, he was the 
epitome of the new gentry who were beginning to immigrate to West Ham. 
He was wealthy but with strong religious and social convictions. For 
instance, he endowed an elementary school and paid for two of his relatives 
to take degrees in theology at Cambridge. Moreover, he was rabidly anti- 
Catholic, for in his will, proved in 1631, he left the rent of £2 10s. from a 
house in Upton to provide for an annual sermon on the anniversary of the 
gunpowder plot. Indeed, the epitaph on the monument his wife had erected 
to him in All Saints' Church in West Ham describes him as "a prime mover 
of a perpetual annual celebration of the miraculous deliverance of the 
country and religion from the abominable, heinous, and fiery treachery of 
the Papists"; it concludes by stating that "he practised the greatest piety, he 
promoted peace, he enriched his relations. "^^ 

Fawcett and Holbrooke must have been exactly the kind of people 
Coventry feared might become interested in Katheren's imposture. They 
were popular, earnest and influential. From the perspective of the state, were 
such men to place their reputations behind the interpretative commentary 
developing around the would-be demoniac, the pretence of a labouring 
family might become the touch-paper for another divisive national debate. 



Richard Raiswell / A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James 1/41 



Consequently, Coventry was concerned with determining how public these 
sessions of prayer were (STAC 8 32/13 f. IS*", q. 13; cf. f. 9^, q. 16). In fact, 
with Holbrooke also preaching at Bromley in Middlesex and St. Andrew 
Hubbard in London in 1621, and with possession being such a useful vehicle 
for propaganda, news seems to have spread quite rapidly through the Puritan 
community, with the result that, on several other occasions after Holbrooke's 
second visit to Katheren, people who "wore blacke clothes like unto minis- 
ters" came to pray with Katheren (STAC 8 32/13 f. 2^, q. 16). While to 
Coventry this meant that the interests of the Puritans had been piqued by the 
events in Upton (STAC 8 32/13 f. 9^ q. 16; cf. f. 180, to Thomas it meant an 
increase in revenues. 

It was at this point that the emerging tension between popular and 
learned discourses first became problematic for Thomas, for he engaged the 
services of one Mr. Franklin, dwelling at Ratcliffe Highway. Though Thomas 
described Franklin as a "phisicione," Holbrooke and Adister laboured to 
persuade him that Franklin "did deale & use sawcerie" (STAC 8 32/13 f. S"", 
q. 12). It would seem, then, that Franklin was a cunning man. As Macfarlane 
has argued, the consultation of a cunning man was a vital step in the social 
diagnosis of supernatural activity. He would inquire about the nature of the 
affliction and then seek to discover the social relationships of the victim and 
any suspicions they might harbour. Thus cunning men tended to lend the 
prejudices and suspicions of the victim some social validity.^^ Indeed, 
Bernard underscores this point, lamenting how easily cunning men were able 
to confirm and manipulate people's suspicions of the supernatural.^^ That 
this is precisely the result Thomas sought is confirmed by his wife's reaction. 
Appalled that Thomas had spent twenty shillings for Franklin's services, 
Elizabeth chastised Thomas, saying, "Gods bread, Tom Saunders why 
wouldest thou give this fellowe money being thou knowest she counterfeits" 
(STAC 8 32/13 f. 9^ q. 13; cf f. 5^, q. 13). Clearly, then, Thomas did not 
squander such a sum securing Franklin's services for medical reasons. 

However, while a cunning man may have been useful to the family in 
manipulating popular sensibilities, such sorcery risked alienating their Puri- 
tan supporters. Thus, Thomas acquiesced in Holbrooke's concerns and did 
not consult Franklin again. Instead, in an analogous move directed at his 
social superiors in his audience, Thomas sought to champion supernatural 
causation by being seen to rule out affliction from disease. To this end, a 
preacher who lived on Lambeth Hill was dispatched to Dr. Theodore Gulston 
of Black Friars with a sample of Katheren's urine. Gulston, a fellow of the 



42 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



College of Physicians, prescribed some manner of drink for Katheren; 
unsurprisingly, it did her no good (STAC 8 32/13 f. 5r., q. 12).^^ 

While the supernatural was still far from being completely eliminated 
as an explanatory strategy for the peculiar, among the more learned there 
was a growing consensus that it could no longer be de facto assumed without 
first concretely ruling out the possibility of disease. In this context, Edward 
Jorden's A Disease Called the Suffocation of the Mother marks a turning 
point. Composed in 1603 in the wake of his involvement in the Mary Glover 
case, Jorden's tract stressed that many natural diseases could easily be falsely 
diagnosed as possession. In an attempt to establish a new foundation for the 
epistemology of causation, Jorden stressed that a natural explanation should 
be assumed, if possession could not be clearly proven ."^^ In effect, this 
amounted to a reversal of the burden of proof championed by Judge Ander- 
son in the Glover case. A quarter of a century later, after noting a similar 
array of natural diseases which could be mistaken for possession, Bernard 
advised his prospective Grand Juryman to "be inquisitive of the grounds 
leading the Complaint, why he thinketh himselfe, or any of his, to be 
bewitched? whether it bee not rather from his owne feare, than from any 
other cause? or whether the affliction bee not from some naturall cause?""** 
Clearly, then, the content of the learned discourse of causality was beginning 
to change. The supernatural could no longer simply be assumed where 
rational explanation proved deficient. As he was seeking the patronage of 
the wealthy and learned, it was important for Thomas to be seen to be 
attempting to rule out natural causation. 



As a result of their efforts to consolidate the veracity of the imposture 
for both their parochial and more learned audiences, the strange happenings 
in Upton began to acquire some notoriety and momentum of their own, for 
sizeable audiences began to descend upon the Saunders' house to see the 
demoniac. To capitalise on this, Thomas ordered that those coming to see 
Katheren "should not be permitted to have accesse unto her wi*^ out givinge 
money therefore or piûmisinge to give" (STAC 8 32/13 f. 9*^, q. 17). To this 
end, he and "some others often tymes [did] sitt att the ante door of the house 
where in the said Katheren Malpas soe remayned to keepe people from going 
into the said house" (STAC 8 32/13 f. 9^ q. 17). In short, they underscored 
the theatricality of their charade by charging admission ."^^ 



Richard Raiswell / A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James 1/43 



However, it is at this point that the tension resulting from the need to 
marry popular and learned demonological discourse began to wrench the 
scheme asunder, for the demands of the former forced Katheren to accuse 
Elizabeth Hedlyn and Goodwife White, both of West Ham, of invoking the 
evil spirits that possessed her. In the context of popular discourse, possession 
and witchcraft were inextricably linked. Keith Thomas goes so far as to argue 
that "possessed" and "bewitched" were effectively synonymous in the sev- 
enteenth century. Most of the noted demoniacs of the period were able to 
accuse someone of bewitching them. Again, this is a point about which 
Bernard warns his Grand Jurymen, urging them to resist the temptation to 
assume such a causal nexus. "^^ Within the eschatological discourse into which 
Thomas, Elizabeth and Katheren Senior had worked so hard to situate the 
younger Katheren's actions, it would have been virtually impossible for the 
latter to maintain her facade without presenting her audience with at least 
some clue as to the identity of her tormentor. 

While the records are silent about White and Hedlyn, it is likely that 
these women would largely fit Harsnett's description of the archetypal witch, 
as the success of the charge was contingent upon how well it conformed to 
social expectations. Though Harsnett characterised those who believed in 
witches as either children, fools, women or cowards, melancholy or senile, 
he argues that the quintessential witch was "an olde weather-beaten Croane, 
having her chinne and her kness meeting for age.""*^ Macfarlane's study of 
Essex Assize indictments adds that the perception of a witch's guilt was also 
a function of her social background, character, parents and status in the 
community."^^ In this context, it is interesting that Thomas does not seem to 
have known Goodwife Hedlyn, for he admits that he had to ask a smith called 
Palmer, who lived in Plaistow, where she lived (STAC 8 32/13 f. T, q. 21). 
This suggests that the accusation against Hedlyn was not motivated by any 
real or imagined slight; rather, the accusation was a cynical attempt to exploit 
the reputation of a marginal figure in the parish to the advantage of the 
imposture. It was consciously calculated to conform to the expectations of 
the audience. 

Katheren seems to have known Goodwife White, unlike Hedlyn, for 
upon hearing of the accusation against her. White immediately came to visit 
Katheren. Confronted thus, Katheren withdrew her accusation, claiming 
only that she had been mistaken (STAC 8 32/13 f. 6^, q. 18). The would-be 
demoniac continued in her charge against Hedlyn, though, proclaiming to 
her audience that Hedlyn often visited her in the likeness of a brown dog. 



44 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



which roared and foamed at the mouth, or in the form of a cat. Both of these 
were fairly conventional images with much precedent. More unusually, 
Katheren accused Hedlyn of once coming to her in the guise of a swarm of 
bees (STAC 8 32/13 f. 6\ q. 18 and f. 3^ q. 18). 

In a cowardly attempt to support this accusation against Hedlyn, at some 
point in late March or early April 1621, Thomas visited Anne Godfrey, the 
wife of Eli Godfrey, a yeoman in the ward of Plaistow. Anne had been quite 
ill the previous December and, pressured by Thomas, became convinced that 
her illness was caused by Hedlyn's witchcraft. He then persuaded her to 
come and see Katheren during one of her fits. Immediately afterwards, Anne 
took to her bed and did "feigne her selfe to be sicke and to practise & exercise 
the like trickes & devises as the said Katheren Malpas did" (STAC 8 32/13 
f. 9^q. 19). 

On 7 April, a mere three days after Anne had begun her fits, Thomas 
convinced her to swear out a complaint against Hedlyn at the Quarter 
Sessions. Though the Attorney General argued that Thomas was heard to 
remark that "it was time to have the witch cutt of[f]" (STAC 8 32/13 f. 9^, 
q. 21), he was loath to swear out his own complaint. However, Anne's 
complaint seems not to have convinced the presenting jury, for instead of an 
indictment against Hedlyn at the July Assizes, what is extant is an indictment 
against Anne herself."*^ She is accused of pretending to be bewitched by 
Hedlyn and then falsely and maliciously accusing her of this felony in order 
to put her in peril of her life. Appended to the bottom of the indictment is a 
record of the court's verdict. She was found guilty and sentenced to be placed 
in the stocks at Chelmsford and Barking for two hours, then committed to 
the house of correction until the next Assizes."^^ This amounted to a sentence 
of eight months incarceration. 

VI 

Why the charge against Hedlyn ended up backfiring on Anne is an open 
question; nevertheless, a close reading of the assize file is suggestive. While 
the frequency of successful indictments framed to fall under the purview of 
the witchcraft statute of 1604 was declining in Essex under James, some 
sixty-one such indictments, accusing twenty-eight different people, were 
levelled at the assizes. Of these, twenty-three indictments were for murder 
by witchcraft, with a further twenty-four citing witchcraft as the cause of 
personal injury. The remaining fourteen fall under the broad heading of 
maleficium. Of the twenty-eight accused, eleven had only a single indictment 



Richard Raiswell / A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James 1/45 



levelled against them, and, of these, all but one were acquitted. Of the 
remaining seventeen, who had multiple accusations for witchcraft-related 
offences presented against them, nine were convicted and seven acquitted."*^ 
This suggests that trial juries, composed of freeholders and, at times, lesser 
gentry as well, were decidedly reticent to convict under the witchcraft statute 
when only a single instance of supernatural activity was alleged. Only when 
there was a more sustained pattern of witchcraft apparent through multiple 
independent accusations were trial juries prepared to convict at a rate 
approaching that of other felonies."*^ Indeed, accusations made by unconnec- 
ted demoniacs impressed even the usually sceptical Bemard.^^ In this con- 
text, it is hardly surprising that Anne's lone accusation against Hedlyn broke 
down: a presenting jury composed of her social superiors needed a more 
manifest case. What is unclear is why Thomas did not himself swear out a 
complaint against Hedlyn. 

With Anne convicted, Katheren's imposture was increasingly compro- 
mised. Though she managed to maintain it through the summer, in the 
autumn of 1621 she was summoned to Theobald's to be examined by the 
king.^^ Understandably, Thomas was very concerned; according to the 
Attorney General, he feared that if any of them should confess, Hedlyn would 
have good cause for legal action against them, leaving them "stript out of all 
and utterly undon" (STAC 8 32/13 f. 9^, q. 23). Although no record of such 
an action is extant, Thomas's fears were not unrealistic; those who levelled 
indictments that were stamped ignoramus by the presenting jury often found 
themselves subsequently accused of slander. ^^ 

Elizabeth accompanied Katheren to the examination but seems to have 
feared the king more than her husband; both of them broke down imme- 
diately and confessed the whole charade. Upon getting word of this, Thomas 
contemplated flight. In the end, though, he lacked the will to follow through 
(STAC 8 32/13 f. 9^, q. 23). In February 1622, Thomas and Katheren Senior 
were summoned to answer the questions of the Attorney General. This they 
did through the spring and into the summer. Unfortunately, though, no record 
of the verdict of the court is appended to the pleadings of the parties.^^ 

University of Toronto 



Notes 

1. I am grateful to Lara Hinchberger, Prof. K. Bartlett, and EUzabeth Schoales for their 
comments on earlier drafts of this paper. 



46 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



2. Star Chamber records are housed in the PubUc Records Office, London. In the nineteenth- 
century, a page number was stamped onto the top right-hand comer of each sheet of the 
pleadings; for the sake of convenience, I have used these numbers in citations. Where 
individual pages have been subdivided into questions, question numbers are also identified. 

3. It is impossible to determine exactly how old the younger Katheren Malpas was at this 
point. The only indication of her age comes from the Attorney General, who describes her 
simply as "a younge mayden" (STAC 8 32/13 f. 180. 

4. See S. Clark, Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modem Europe 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 390-400, and R. Biggs, "'Many Reasons Why': 
^tchcraft and the Problem of Multiple Explanation," in J. Barry, M. Hester and G. Roberts, 
eds.. Witchcraft in Early Modem Europe (Cambridge: University Press, 1996), pp. 49-63. 

5. J. S. Cockbum, Calendar of Assize Records: Home Circuit Indictments Elizabeth I and 
James I: Introduction (London: H.M.S.O., 1985), p. 98. Cf. The Examination and Confes- 
sion of Certaine Wytches at Chelmsforde in the Countie of Essex (London, 1566). 

6. J. S. Cockbum, "Early Modem Assize Records as Historical Evidence," Journal of the 
Society of Archivists 5 (1975): 221-28. 

7. A. Macfarlane, Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: A Regional and Comparative Study 
(New York: Harper and Row, 1910), passim. 

8. For the mechanics of Star Chamber procedure, see T. G. Barnes, "Star Chamber Mythol- 
ogy," American Journal of Legal History 5 (1961): 8-10; T G. Barnes, "Due Process and 
Slow Process in the Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart Star Chamber," American Joumal 
of Legal History 6 (1962): 228-29; and R. Crompton, Star-Chamber Cases, shewing what 
causes properly belong to the cognizance of that court (London, 1630). 

9. These are STAC 8 58/5, STAC 8 207/21 , STAC 8 213/7 and STAC 8 32/13. Cf Macfarlane, 
Appendix I, pp. 301-2. 

10. A True Discourse upon the Matter of Martha Drossier of Romorantin, pretended to be 
possessed by a Devill, trans. Abraham Hartwel (London, 1599), pp. 4, 6 and 15. 

11. J. Swan, A True and Briefe Report of Mary Glovers Vexation and Her Deliverance by 
Fastings and Prayer, in M. MacDonald, éd.. Witchcraft and Hysteria in Elizabethan 
London: Edward Jorden and the Mary Glover Case (London: Routledge, 1 99 1 ), pp. 1 6-1 7, 
37 and 43. 

1 2. See D. P. Walker, Unclean Spirits: Possession and Exorcism in France and England in the 
Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania 
Press, 1981), pp. 61-68, and Stephen Greenblatt, Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circu- 
lation of Social Energy in Renaissance England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 104. 

13. Ben Jonson, The Devil is an Ass, ed. Peter Happé (Manchester: Manchester University 
Press, 1994), 5.5.140-44. 

14. S. Harsnett, A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures, in F.W. Brownlow, éd., 
Shakespeare, Harsnett and the Devils ofDenham (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 
1993), p. 346. 

15. Jonson, 5.5.24-27. 



Richard Raiswell / A Case of Counterfeit Possession in the Reign of James 1/47 



16. R Corfield, "Urban Development in England and Wales in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth 
Centuries," in J. Barry, éd., The Tudor and Stuart Town: A Reader in English Urban History, 
1530-1688 (London: Longman. 1990), pp. 39-42. 

17. Walker, p. 4. 

1 8. See Clark, pp. 393 and 404-9. 

19. See Swan, passim, esp. p. 43, and M. MacDonald, Introduction, Witchcraft and Hysteria, 
ed. M. MacDonald (London: Routledge, 1991), p. xxxviii. 

20. Sv/an, passim. 

21. Greenblatt, p. 103. 

22. Ibid. 

23. Richard Bernard, A Guide to Grand lury Men (London, 1627), pp. 40-41. 

24. Ibid., p. 39. 

25. Jonson, 5.8.28. 

26. See, for instance, A True Discourse upon the Matter of Martha Brossier, p. 6, and Bernard, 
p. 31. 

27. E. Fairfax, Daemonologia: A Discourse on Witchcraft as it was Acted in the Family of Mr. 
Edward Fairfax of Fuyston, in the County of York in the Year 1621, ed. W. Grainge 
(Harrogate, 1882), pp. 62-64. 

28. MacDonald, esp. pp. xix-liv. 

29. See Harsnett, p. 222. 

30. Ibid., pp. 335 and 390. ^ 

3 1 . See The Works of William Perkins, ed. L Breward (Appleford: Sutton Courtney Press, 1970), 
pp. 608-9. 

32. This is recounted in great detail in Swan, passim. 

33. Constitutiones sive Canones Ecclesiastici, per Episcopum Londinensem (London, 1604). 

34. PS. Seaver, The Puritan Lectureships: Politics of Religious Dissent 1560-1662 (Stanford: 
Stanford University Press, 1970), p. 83, and W.R. Powell, "West Ham," A History of the 
County of Essex, vol. 6, ed. W. R. Powell (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), p. 1 16. 

35. Indictments at the assizes were made on small membranes of vellum. These are now found 
bound into bundles at the Public Record Office. Adister's indictment can be found at ASSI 
35 61/1 m. 19 

36. F. Chancellor, Ancient Sepulchral Monuments of Essex: A Record of Interesting Tombs in 
Essex Churches, and Some Account of the Persons and Families Connected with Them 
(London, 1890), pp. 377-78, and PoweU, p. 161. 

37. MacFarlane, pp. 115-23. 

38. Bernard, pp. 19-20 and 81-83. 

39. "Goulston or Gulston, Theodore, M.D. (1572-1632)," Dictionary of National Biography. 

40. E. Jorden, A Disease Called the Suffocation of the Mother (London, 1603), passim. 



48 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



41. Bernard, p. 24. 

42. How much the scheme actually garnered for them is uncertain, for the defendants con- 
tradicted each other in their answers. Thomas said that he received only four pence. Katheren 
Senior said that the total received was not more than ten shillings and with this Elizabeth 
agreed (STAC 8 32/13 f. l*", q. 3; f. 4^ q. 3). It is likely that the scheme must have netted 
them quite significantly more if Thomas was prepared to spend twenty shillings to engage 
Franklin and pay Gulston's fees. 

43. Bernard, p. 53. 

44. Harsnett, pp. 308-9; Macfarlane, passim, esp. p. 17; and K. Thomas, Religion and the 
Decline of Magic (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), pp. 521-51. 

45. MacFarlane, p. 17. 

46. ASSI35 63/7m. 1. 

47. ASSI 35 63/7 m. \. Cf. Calendar of Assize Records, James I, no. 1596, p. 251. 

48. This figure includes Robert Parker, who was charged with murder and two counts of 
inflicting injury through witchcraft but was convicted on the lesser charge of sorcery. Anne 
Jonn died before her case was tried (Calendar of Assize Records, James I, no. 843, p. 131, 
and no. 742, p. 114). 

49. J. G. Bellamy, The Criminal Trial in Later Medieval England: Felony before the Courts 
from Edward I to the Sixteenth Century (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), p. 95. 
On the composition of juries, see J. S. Cockbum, A History of English Assizes, 1558-1714 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), pp. 113 and 118. Q! Bellamy, p. 99 

50. Cockbum, Calendar of Assize Records: Introduction, p. 92. Cf ASSI 35 45/1 m. 18a. 
Bemard, pp. 170-71. 

5 1 . Despite his earlier literary endeavours to the contrary, James I took a personal interest in 
seeking out and disproving cases of possession because the issue had been closely tied to 
non-conformist propaganda and inextricably linked to state security. Bemard notes with 
approval how "our late King lames, by his wisedome, learning, and experience, [was able 
to] discover divers counterfeits" (p. 34). 

52. C. L'Estrange Ewen, Witchcraft in the Star Chamber ([n.p.], 1938), p. 9. 

53. Barnes has argued that in every Star Chamber case in which at least one of the defendants 
was convicted and a fine levied, a note of this fine can be found in the Exchequer Memoranda 
Rolls. These I have checked for 1622 and 1623, but I have been unable to find any record 
of such a fine; it does seem implausible, though, given the evidence and the testimony of 
Elizabeth Saunders, that Thomas was able to escape any punishment. 



The Iconography of Time in 

The Winter's Tale 



FREDERICK 
KIEFER 



Résumé : Bien que les spectateurs modernes connaissent le personage du 
Temps, ils ignorent en général les détails de son apparence, ainsi que les mises 
en scènes du Temps dans les spectacles publiques, le drame et l'art de l'Angle- 
terre à l'époque de Shakespeare. En restituant l'aspect visuel du Père Temps 
dans Le Conte d'hiver, nous pouvons comprendre la gamme de symbolisme 
communiquée par ce personage et mieux apprécier sa signifiance pour la pièce 
shakespearienne. 

Probably no personification was more familiar to Jacobean playgoers than 
the figure whom Shakespeare brings to the stage in The Winter's Tale: 
Time. His presence is in keeping with the special attention Shakespeare gives 
to visual effects in the late plays, when he increasingly creates characters out 
of mythological figures, and when his company has available the resources 
of the indoor Blackfriars theater as well as the Globe. Father Time is not 
unfamiliar to modem audiences accustomed to seeing his image at New 
Year's celebrations. But we have largely lost the visual language of Shakes- 
peare's culture, the symbolism that was the common property of his contem- 
poraries. As a result, a modem playgoer is almost certainly unaware of the 
specifics of Time's appearance and of the contexts in which Time typically 
appeared in Elizabethan England. Fortunately, we have at hand sufficient 
materials to reconstruct what playgoers saw when Time walked onto Shakes- 
peare's stage. That is, by using prints, paintings, and other artistic represen- 
tations contemporary with Shakespeare, as well as evidence fumished by 
pageantry and drama, we are able to reconstmct the visual appearance of 
Time. By so doing and thereby coming to understand the range of symbolism 

Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 3 (1999) /49 



50 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



conveyed by this figure, we can more fully appreciate the meaning of the 
spectacle, both for the ensuing dramatic action and for the entire play. 



In Renaissance pageantry and art, personified Time is unremarkable: bald 
and bearded, he could be taken for almost any other aged man wearing 
classical robes. The features belonging to Time are chiefly three; they are 
specified by Thomas Dekker in Troia-Nova Triumphans, London Triumph- 
ing, the lord mayor's pageant for 29 October 1612, and by Thomas Middleton 
in The Triumphs of Truth, the pageant for 29 October 1613, as scythe, 
hourglass, and wings. ^ The scythe represents the destructive effects of 
transience; the hourglass is the visual metaphor of time's passage; and the 
wings suggest our psychological sense of time's rapidity. Despite the near 
ubiquity of these three accoutrements in Elizabethan- Jacobean England, 
they constitute a marked departure from classical representations. In antiq- 
uity time was conceived as "the divine principle of eternal and inexhaustible 
creativeness," a concept symbolized by the ouroboros, a snake swallowing 
its tail.2 This motif survives in some depictions of Petrarch's Triumphs, 
where the ouroboros is held by Time, and in certain other pictures where it 
encircles Time's arm, as on the engraved title page of Jean Chaumeau's 
Histoire de Berry (Lyons, 1566).^ The ancients also conceived of time as 
kairos, "the brief decisive moment which marks a turning-point in the life 
of human beings," and they represented this concept by a youth holding a 
balance."* Personified Time in the Renaissance conveys the same sense of 
opportunity when he wears a forelock, meant to be seized by the aspirant at 
an auspicious moment,^ as he does on the title page of Lapis Philosophicus 
(Oxford, 1599) by John Case.^ Shakespeare evokes this sense of timeliness 
when Antonio, in Much Ado about Nothing, says, "he meant to take the 
present time by the top [i.e., the forelock]" (1.2.14-15).^ 

As Erwin Panofsky has demonstrated. Time gained the hourglass, 
scythe (or sickle), and other symbols through a confusion: "the Greek 
expression for time, Chronos, was very similar to the name of Kronos (the 
Roman Saturn), oldest and most formidable of the gods."^ Even in the 
ancient world the confusion is apparent. Cicero, for example, writes that 
"Saturn's Greek name is Kronos, which is the same as chronos, a space of 
time."^ An illustration in Vincenzo Cartari's Le Were e nove imagini de gli 
dei delli antichi (1615) demonstrates the conflation: Saturn and Father Time 
stand side by side, both old and bearded. ^^ They could be identical twins, 



Frederick Kiefer / The Iconography of Time in The Winter's Tale / 51 



except that Saturn holds a sickle (used to castrate his father) and a staff, while 
Time has wings and a winged crown. 

The confusion between these two is also manifest in Ben Jonson's 
Hymenaei, a masque performed 5 January 1606, where a marginal note 
claims that "Truth is feigned to be the daughter of Saturn, who indeed with 
the ancients was no other than Time, and so his name alludes, Kronos.''^^ 
From this conflation Time became particularly identified with destruction 
and death. For instance, a character in Respuhlica, performed at the Christ- 
mas revels of 1553-54, calls Time "An auncient turner of houses upside 
downe, / and a comon consumer of cytie and towne" (11. 1301-2). ^^ In Fulke 
Greville's Mustapha, a closet drama written about 1595, Eternity tells 
personified Time: "your scithe mortall must to harme incline" (3rd act 
chorus, 1. 142).^^ Artists gave powerful form to the concept. A painting by 
Frans Francken II depicts a group of men fighting two personifications: 
Death aims several arrows at the combatants, while winged Time, hourglass 
atop his head, wields his scythe against them.^"^ More than any other single 
work, Petrarch's Triumphs gave impetus to the concept of Time as destroyer. 
Personified in such a triumph, Time may possess a grotesque quality, as, for 
example, in Philips Galle's print after Pieter Bruegel: Time rides in his 
vehicle while devouring a child, ^^ a clear sign of the confusion with ancient 
Kronos, or Saturn, who ate his offspring in order to forestall a prophecy that 
his children would overthrow him. Shakespeare alludes to the destructive 
nature of Time in Love 's Labor *s Lost, when the prince speaks of "cormorant 
devouring Time" (1.1.4), and in Measure for Measure, when the duke cites 
"the tooth of time" (5.1.12). Time's formidable teeth are the subject of Henry 
Peacham's reminiscence: "I have seene time drawne by a painter standing 
upon an old mine, winged, and with iron teeth." ^^ 

Depictions of Time exude a mood of melancholy, befitting a personifi- 
cation who presides over so much destruction and death. "How slowly does 
sad Time his feathers move!" writes Spenser in his Epithalamion}^ In Love 
F reed from Ignorance and Folly, a masque performed 3 February 1611, Ben 
Jonson writes of "aged Time" with "weary limbs" (11. 312-13). And in 
Middleton's The World Tossed at Tennis, apparently intended for perfor- 
mance as a masque, then revised for performance at a Bankside playhouse 
in 1620, a character observes, "See, Time himself comes weeping." Time 
replies, "Who has more cause?" (1. 309),^^ and he goes on to catalogue the 
toll of mutability. Michiel Coxcie, in a sixteenth-century print, depicts Time 
sitting dejectedly amid the ruin of classical buildings: old and bearded, Time 
has an hourglass and a crutch.'^ Although never part of Time's iconography 



52 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



in antiquity, the crutch became common in the Renaissance, due to the 
conflation of Time and ancient Saturn. Time may even have two crutches, 
as he does in some illustrations of Petrarch's Triumphs?^ In all of these 
pictures, the crutch symbolizes both advanced age and debility. A crutch may 
also, however, suggest Time's seeming slowness: in Much Ado about Noth- 
ing, Claudio conveys his anxiety by saying, "Time goes on crutches till love 
have all his rites" (2.1.357-58). 

n 

In view of Time's identification with mutability and death, Shakespeare's 
personification in The Winter's Tale may, as Robert M. Adam suggests, enter 
"in toga and sandals, with the shaggy locks and fierce scythe that he inherited 
from his cannibalistic predecessor Saturn/Chronos."^^ And yet 
Shakespeare's Father Time makes no mention of a scythe. J. H. R Fafford 
surmises that "as many emblematic figures of Time do not carry a scythe 
Shakespeare's Time may not have had one."^^ Given the dramatic context, 
however, there would be nothing inappropriate about Time's appearance 
with the implement for reaping. After all, the playgoers have just witnessed 
Antigonus pursued by a bear (3.3.58 s.d.), and in the same scene the Clown 
reports seeing the Sicilian ship go down at sea. Discovering the infant 
Perdita, the Shepherd reflects on the conjunction of death and life when he 
tells the Clown, "thou met'st with things dying, I with things new-bom" 
(113-14). 

With greater confidence, we can say that Shakespeare's Time is old 
(4.1.10) and so probably bearded. He also has "wings" (4), symbolizing the 
swift passage of time. The personification, moreover, holds an hourglass. By 
employing this hand prop, Shakespeare's figure resembles Time in other 
Elizabethan plays and pageants. For instance, at Harefield place in 1602, the 
queen witnessed a pageant featuring Time, who had blonde hair, wore a green 
robe, and carried an hourglass; there Time pays a conventional compliment, 
telling the queen that as long as he attends her, "my glasse runnes not: indeed 
it hathe bine stopt a longe time."^^ In The Thracian Wonder, a comedy 
performed ca. 1590-1600, Time makes a brief appearance, and although he 
spends only moments onstage and says not a word, he does perform an 
action: Enter Time with an hourglass, sets it down, and exit (1.3.15 s.d.).^^ 
In Anthony Munday's Chruso-thriambos, The Triumphs of Gold, the lord 
mayor's pageant of 29 October 1611, Time has a somewhat larger role. 
Equipped with his ubiquitous hourglass, Munday's Time turns it over. 



Frederick Kiefer / The Iconography of Time in The Winter's Tale 1 53 



saying, "As thus I tume my glas se to times of old, /So tune thine eares to 
what must now be told."^^ 

Shakespeare's Time resembles these other figures to the extent that he 
carries the same hourglass and he speaks in a way that evokes the personi- 
fication of Elizabethan and Jacobean pageantry. That is, Time's is not a 
supple blank verse, like that of other characters in The Winter's Tale, but a 
stiff er poetry spoken in rhyme. So different is the speech of Time from the 
speech of other characters that Shakespeareans, especially earlier in the 
twentieth century, supposed that a less accomplished collaborator must have 
been responsible for the lines. 

Having identified the physical features of Time, we need to ask what 
Shakespeare achieves by bringing the personification on stage. Erwin 
Panofsky suggests that the words defining Time's function in the play are 
these: "I slide / O'er sixteen years" (4.1.5-6). Panofsky comments, "Some- 
times the figure of Father Time is used as a mere device to indicate the lapse 
of months, years, or centuries, as in Shakespeare's Winter's Tale''^^ Yet 
Shakespeareans have not been satisfied by this characterization of Time's 
role. Pafford, for instance, argues that Time has a significance that transcends 
the brief scene in which he addresses the playgoers: "Time's speech is not 
an interpolation but an integral part of the play."^^ If so, what does Time 
contribute? Pafford suggests that Time "gives information," and indeed he 
does. But this alone cannot account for Time's presence on stage, for as 
Nevill Coghill demonstrates, the points Time cites — that sixteen years have 
elapsed, that Leontes "shuts himself away in penitence, and that we are 
about to see Perdita and Florizel — "are clearly made in the scene 
immediately following."^^ If conveying information were his sole raison 
d'être y Time would be unnecessary. Shakespeare could simply have moved 
from the scene of Perdita's discovery by the Shepherd to the colloquy 
between Camillo and Polixenes about "the penitent King" (4.2.6-7) and "a 
daughter of most rare note" (41-42). 

In assessing Time's purpose, let us consider the one prop we are certain 
he carries — an hourglass: "I turn my glass, and give my scene such growing 
/ As you had slept between" (4.1.16-17). By upending the device. Father 
Time marks the chief division of the dramatic action: we are about to move 
from a world of anxiety, suffering, and death to one of exuberance, joy, and 
new life. Paradoxically, this sharp transition masks an underlying similarity 
between the two halves of the play. William Blissett, who notes that The 
Winter's Tale "is almost unique in the canon for its bilateral symmetry," 
enumerates some of the parallels: 



54 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



in the first half Leontes offends and Polixenes is in a state of innocence, in the second 
PoHxenes takes offense and Leontes is in a state of penitence; in the first, Camillo flees, 
Perdita is rejected, Paulina protests, and Hermione lies hidden as if in death; in the 
second, Camillo returns, Perdita is received, Paulina restores, and Hermione stands risen 

29 

as if from death. 

Because the two halves of Time's hourglass look identical, Ernest Schanzer 
observes, "it may not be fanciful to think that this fact enhances our sense 
of the similarity of the shape and structure of the two halves of The Winter 's 
Taler^^ 

The hourglass held in Father Time's hands has another and more specific 
implication for the king who has so cruelly treated his family, precipitating 
the death of his son, the abandonment of his daughter, and the sequestration 
of his wife. By his behavior, Leontes has violated humane impulses, codes 
of decorum, standards of civilized conduct. His is a display of imprudence 
and intemperance on an outrageous scale. In view of this excess, it is 
significant that the cardinal virtue of temperance was associated with devices 
for timekeeping in the late Middle Ages and in the Renaissance. Lynn White 
points out, for instance, that manuscripts of L'Épîtred'Othéa (ca. 1400) are 
"embellished with pictures of Temperance adjusting a large mechanical 
clock" and that in a treatise of the virtues ca. 1470 personified Temperance 
has a clock on her head.^^ The very word temperance seems to derive, ultimat- 
ely, from the Latin tempus. Shakespeare makes the connection explicit when 
Hamlet defends himself against his mother's charge of "ecstasy": "Ecstasy? 
/ My pulse as yours doth temperately keep time, / And makes as healthful 
music" (3.4.139-41). In another of his plays Shakespeare describes a 
character's intemperance by means of a clock. When King Richard II says, 
"now hath time made me his numb' ring clock" (5.5.50), he is not only 
expressing his own sense of victimization but also, implicitly, conceding his 
past intemperance. 

The association between temperance and time is not limited to mechan- 
ical clocks. Lynn White notes that a fresco in the Palazzo Publico, Siena, 
depicts Temperance in the 1350s with "our earliest picture anywhere of a 
sandglass."^^ Similarly, Comelis Matsys, in a mid-sixteenth-century print, 
depicts personified Temperance holding an hourglass (Illustration 1).^^ That 
device, in the hands of Shakespeare's Father Time, is a silent signal that, so 
far as Leontes is concerned, temperate behavior and sound judgment will 
characterize future action. 



Frederick Kiefer / The Iconography of Time in The Winter's Tale 1 55 




— .«t 



ELAAFCRANCIA ^^=:^ 



Figure 1 : Temperance holding an hourglass. A print by Comelis 
Matsys (c. 1510-c. 1557. © Copyright The British Museum. 



56 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



m 

Inga-Stina Ewbank has suggested that Shakespeare's personified character 
may have been inspired by the prose romance on which he based his play, 
Robert Greene's Pandosto The Triumph of Time (1592), whose full title 
continues. Wherein is discovered by a pleasant Historié, that although by 
the meanes of sinister fortune, Truth may be concealed, yet by Time in spight 
of fortune it is most manifestly revealed. ^^ ALaiin tag follows: Temporis filia 
Veritas?^ That proverbial saying had a special resonance for an English 
audience, since Queen Mary had chosen it "for her personal device, for the 
legend on her crest, on the State seal of her reign, on her coins."^^ Given the 
queen's adoption of the adage, it seems appropriate that in Respublica, 
written during the first year of Mary's reign. Verity, called "the dawghter of 
Tyme" (I. 1699), hands malefactors over to Justice and Nemesis/Mary (11. 
1798-1801). Queen Elizabeth, moreover, witnessed an incident in her cor- 
onation procession that gave a characteristically Protestant application to the 
dictum: from a hollow place or cave "issued one personage whose name was 
Tyme, apparaylled as an olde man with a sythe in his hande, havynge wynges 
artificiallye made, leadinge a personage of lesser stature then himselfe, 
whiche was fynely and well apparaylled, all cladde in whyte silke, and 
directlye over her head was set her name and tytle in latin and Englyshe, 
Temporis filia, the daughter of Tyme."^^ As Elizabeth looked on. Truth 
delivered the book she held, the Bible in English. The young queen then 
demonstrated her Protestant allegiance by her handling of the book: "she as 
soone as she had received the booke, kyssed it, and with both her handes 
held up the same, and so laid it upon her brest, with great thankes to the 
citie."38 

Thomas Dekker adopted this tableau in The Whore of Babylon, written 
in the early years of King James's reign (performed ca. 1606). In a dumb 
show at the beginning of the play, Dekker dramatizes Time's role as revealer 
of truth: a curtain is drawn, "discovering Truth in sad abiliments; uncrowned: 
her haire disheveld, and sleeping on a rock: Time (her father) attired likewise 
in black, and al his properties (as sithe, howreglasse and wings) of the same 
cullor, using all meanes to waken Truth, but not being able to doe it, he sits 
by her and moums."^^ There follows a funeral procession (for Queen Mary), 
consisting of counselors, pensioners, and ladies. With the beginning of 
Queen Elizabeth's reign, ''Truth suddenly awakens, and beholding this sight, 
shews (with her father) arguments of joy, and Exeunt, returning presently: 
Time being shifted into light cuUors, his properties likewise altred into silver. 



Frederick Kiefer / The Iconography of Time in The Winter's Tale 1 57 



and Truth crowned." In The Winter's Tale, Time does not change costume, 
of course, nor does personified Truth make an on-stage appearance. But the 
dramatic action involves the revelation of the true identity of a daughter, lost 
for a long time to her father and mother. The dialogue, too, evokes the 
progression of truth through time. Near the end of the play, when one 
Gentleman inquires, "Has the King found his heir?", another answers, "Most 
true, if ever truth were pregnant by circumstance" (5.2.29-31). In the last 
scene, as she reveals to Leontes the statue of his wife and thus the truth about 
Hermione's fate, Paulina says, "Tis time" (5.3.99).^o 

IV 

A corollary of truth's revelation is the righting of wrongs: ideally, justice 
may be achieved when the actual course of events becomes known. In 
Respublica, the villainous Avarice reports of Time, "manie of my frendes 
hathe he brought to paine and smarte" (1. 1304). In The Trial of Treasure, 
performed ca. 1565, Time announces, "Time is the touchstone the just for to 
try.""^^ In A Larumfor London, performed in the 1590s, Time, who speaks 
the prologue and epilogue, says that he has "searcht the worlds corrupt 
enormities" (1. 4)."*^ In As You Like It, performed in 1599, Rosalind says, 
"Time is the old justice that examines all such offenders" (4.1 .199-200). And 
in Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrèce, "Time's glory is ... To unmask 
falsehood, and bring truth to light ... To wrong the wronger till he render 
right" (11. 939-43). Time even holds the scales of justice in Gilles Corrozet's 
emblem book, Hecatomgraphie (1540)."*^ 

In keeping with his punitive role. Time may bear a whip of the kind that 
Hamlet cites (3.1.69). Such a whip takes visual form on the title page 
(Illustration 2) of Giovanni Andrea Gilio's Topica Poetica (Venice, 1580). 
In a print by Maarten van Heemskerck, Time is the charioteer who, whip in 
hand, drives the chariot of the world."^ A mural by Paolo Veronese in the 
Villa Barbaro, Maser, puts a scourge in Time's hand.^^ And a stage direction 
in The Sun's Darling by Ford and Dekker, performed in 1624 and later 
revised, represents Time wielding his instrument of correction: Enter Tïmc 
with a whip, whipping Follie before him (1.1.85 s.d.).^^ 

In The Winter's Tale much misdoing needs to be righted: Leontes must 
make amends for the ill treatment of his wife; his hostility toward Polixenes 
must be replaced by friendship forged anew; and, most important, he must 
welcome back and cherish the daughter he condemned to death. As the last 
act of the drama begins, it seems that all this is possible. After all, sixteen 



58 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 




Illustration 2: Winged Time, with an hourglass atop his head, hold- 
ing a whip. A woodcut from the title page of Giovanni Andrea 
Gilio's Topica Poetica (Venice, 1580). By permission of the British 
Library. (BL 638.g.2.) 



Frederick Kiefer / The Iconography of Time in The Winter's Tale 1 59 



years earlier, when he learned of the deaths of wife and child, Leontes vowed 
to do penance: "Once a day I'll visit / The chapel where they lie, and tears 
shed there / Shall be my recreation" (3.2.238-40). Some things, though, can 
never be undone, however long the passage of time. Leontes' penitence 
cannot erase the sixteen years of suffering for a separated husband and wife; 
when they are reunited, Hermione's wrinkled face will epitomize their loss 
of precious time together. Nor can a guilty king's contrition restore to a father 
and mother those years when their daughter came of age in a foreign land. 
And Leontes' penitence cannot undo the death of Mamillius, who will never 
know rebirth in this world. 

The Winter 's Tale, then, dramatizes the double dimension of time, its 
capacity to chastise and destroy as well as reveal and restore. If Father Time's 
presence on stage signals the capacity of time to console the afflicted and 
sort out the depredations of the past, he also symbolizes the destructive 
effects of transience. The self-description of Shakespeare's character is 
succinct: "I, that please some, try all, both joy and terror / Of good and bad, 
that makes and unfolds error" (4.1.1-2). This dual aspect is brilliantly 
realized in a print by Hieronymus Wierix (Illustration 3). Father Time holds 
in his hands two objects with a melancholy significance: his scythe, symbolic 
of destruction and death, and a mirror, which he holds up to a couple who 
see the skeletal figure of Death reflected behind their images ."^^ Something 
with a very different significance, however, decorates Time's form: fruit 
literally adorns his head, symbolizing his capacity to bring events to benign 
fruition. 



Shakespeare is hardly unique in creating Father Time, a character whose role 
in numerous entertainments and plays varies from perfunctory to crucial. We 
have already noted the figure's appearance in a late Elizabethan pageant, a 
Jacobean pageant by Anthony Munday, and The Thracian Wonder. Time also 
appears in A Larum for London, where he speaks both the prologue and 
epilogue. What distinguishes Shakespeare's treatment from these others is 
the prominence and placement of the personified character in the dramatic 
action. In contrast \o A Larum for London, Time in The Winter's Tale appears 
in the very midst of the play; his speech becomes the hinge on which the 
play turns. When he upends his hourglass, as we have seen, he calls attention 
to the structural division of the play and to the contrasting nature of the action 
that is to ensue. By giving Time a voice, moreover, Shakespeare makes the 



60 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



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Frederick Kiefer / The Iconography of Time in The Winter's Tale / 61 



personage more engaging and compelling than the wordless figure of The 
Thracian Wonder. In a fairly lengthy speech of thirty-two lines, Shakes- 
peare's Time delineates his twofold effect. Unlike the personification of the 
pageants, Shakespeare's Time is not exclusively benign: he evokes "both joy 
and terror"; he can both "plant and o'erwhelm" (4.1.9). In short, Shakes- 
peare's Time provides the verbal counterpart of his iconography. 

University of Arizona 
Notes 

1 . See Troia-Nova Triumphans, in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, ed. Fredson 
Bowers, 4 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953-61), 3: 235 (Hne 195), and 
The Triumphs of Truth, in The Works of Thomas Middleton, ed. A. H. Bullen, 8 vols. 
(London: John C. Nimmo, 1885), 7: 250. 

2. Erwin Panofsky, "Father Time," in Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of 
the Renaissance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1939), p. 72. 

3 . Reproduced by J. Richard Judson and Carl van de Velde, Book Illustrations and Title-Pages, 
Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard 21 , 2 vols. (London: Harvey Miller-Heyden, 1978), 
vol. 2, fig. 5. 

4. Panofsky, p. 71. 

5. See Frederick Kiefer, Fortune and Elizabethan Tragedy (San Marino, CA: The Huntington 
Library, 1983), chap. 7, for a discussion of opportunity in Renaissance iconography and 
drama. 

6. Reproduced by S. K. Heninger, Jr., Touches of Sweet Harmony: Pythagorean Cosmology 
and Renaissance Poetics (San Marino, CA: The Huntington Library, 1974), p. 218. 

7. The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans et al., 2nd ed. (Boston: Houghton 
Mifflin, 1997). All citations of Shakespeare are from this edition. 

8. Panofsky, p. 73. 

9. Cicero, De natura deorum, trans. H. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library (New York: G. P. 
Putnam's Sons, 1933), p. 185 (bk. 2, chap. 25). 

10. Vincenzo Cartari, Vere e Nove Imagini, introd. Stephen Orgel, Philosophy of Images 12 
(Padua, 1615; facsimile rpt. New York: Gariand, 1979), p. 32. 

11. Marginal note to Hymenaei, in Ben Jonson: The Complete Masques, ed. Stephen Orgel 
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969), p. 523. Similarly, in Time Vindicated to Himself 
and to His Honors, Jonson's masque performed on Twelfth Night, 1623, Fame says, "he's 
Time itself, and his name Kronos" (1. 15). 

12. Respublica: An Interlude for Christmas 1553, ed. W. W. Greg, Early English Text Society, 
no. 226 (London: Oxford University Press, 1952). 

13. Mustapha, in Poems and Dramas of Fulke Greville, First Lord Brooke, ed. Geoffrey 
Bullough, 2 vols. (Edinburgh and London: Oliver and Boyd, 1939), vol. 2. Mustapha, like 



62 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Fulke Greville's other plays, is a closet drama. Bullough suggests that it "may have been 
first written by 1595" (p. 58). Interestingly, Time in Mustapha is female: "Daughter of 
Heaven am I" (3rd act chorus, 1. 25). 

14. Reproduced by Ursula Hàrting, Frans Francken der Jiingere (1581-1642): Die Gemalde 
mit kritischem Oeuvrekatalog, Flamische Maler im Umkreis der grossen Meister 2 (Freren: 
LucaVerlag, 1989), fig. 32. 

1 5. Reproduced by Amo Dolders, Netherlandish Artists, Philips Galle, The Illustrated Bartsch 
56 (New York: Abaris Books, 1978), fig. 5601.081. 

16. Henry Peacham, The Gentlemans Exercise (London, 1612), p. 111. 

17. Epithalamion, in Edmund Spenser: Selected Shorter Poems, ed. Douglas Brooks-Davies 
(London: Longman, 1995), 1. 281. 

18. The World Tossed at Tennis, in The Works of Thomas Middleton, 7: 166. 

1 9. Reproduced by Teréz Gerszi, Dessins hollandais et flamands, 2nd éd., trans. Ariette Marinie 
(Paris: Editions Siloé, 1980), fig. 3. 

20. See, for example, Maarten van Heemskerck's "The Triumph of Time," reproduced by Ilja 
M.Veldman, Maarten van Heemskerck, ed. Ger Luijten, 2 parts. The New Hollstein: Dutch 
and Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts, 1450-1700 (Roosendall, Netherlands: 
Koninklijke van Poll, 1994), part 2, fig. 495/1. 

21. Robert M. Adams, Shakespeare: The Four Romances (New York: Norton, 1989), p. 113. 

22. J. H. P. Pafford, ed. The Winter's Tale, Arden Shakespeare (London: Methuen, 1963), p. 
168. 

23 . The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, ed. John Nichols , 3 vols. (1823; 
rpt. New York: Burt Franklin, [1966]), 3: 589. 

24. The Thracian Wonder by William Rowley and Thomas Heywood: A Critical Edition, ed. 
Michael Nolan (Salzburg, Austria: Institut fur Anglistik und Amerikanistik, Universitat 
Salzburg, 1997). 

25. Chruso-thriambos, The Triumphs of Gold, in Pageants and Entertainments of Anthony 
Munday, ed. David M. Bergeron, The Renaissance Imagination 1 1 (New York: Garland, 
1985), 11. 177-78. 

26. Panofsky, p. 81. 

27. Pafford, p. 168. 

28. Nevill Coghill, "Six Points of Stage-craft in The Winter's Tale," Shakespeare Survey 11 
(1958): 35. 

29. William Blissett, "This Wide Gap of Time: The Winter's Tale," English Literary Renais- 
sance 1 (1971): 54. 

30. Ernest Schanzer, ed. The Winter's Tale, New Penguin Shakespeare (1969; rpt. 
Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1981), p. 35. 

31. Lynn White, Jr., "The Iconography of Temperantia and the Virtuousness of Technology," 
in Action and Conviction in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Memory ofE. H. Harbison, 
ed. Theodore K. Rabb and Jerrold E. Seigel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), 
pp. 209, 214. 



Frederick Kiefer / The Iconography of Time in The Winter's Tale 1 63 



32. Ibid., ^.20%. 

33. The face between the breasts of Matsys's Temperance is a symbol belonging to virtue. 
Maarten van Heemskerck gives such a symbol to Fortitude in a drawing dated 1556; the 
photographic archive at the Warburg Institute, London, has a copy (Netherl. Art Inst. no. 
2926). Similarly, Raphael places such a face on the chest of Prudence (reproduced by James 
Beck, Raphael: The Stanza della Segnatura [New York: Braziller, 1993], p. 70). Giorgio 
Vasari does the same with Justice (reproduced by Patricia Lee Rubin, Giorgio Vasari: Art 
and History [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], fig. 91). All such symbols probably 
derive from statues of Pallas Athena/Minerva in the ancient world. 

34. Inga-Stina Ewbank, "The Triumph of Time in The Winter's Tale,'' Review of English 
Literature, 5 (1964): 83-100. 

35. Soji Iwasaki, in ''Veritas Filia Temporis and Shakespeare," English Literary Renaissance 
3 (1973): 249-63, explores the topos. 

36. Fritz Saxl, "Veritas FiHa Temporis," in Philosophy & History: Essays Presented to Ernst 
Cassirer, ed. Raymond Klibansky and H. J. Paton (1936; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 
1963), p. 207. 

37. The Quene 's Majestie 's passage through the citie of London to Westminster the daye before 
her coronacion, in Elizabethan Backgrounds: Historical Documents of the Age of Elizabeth 
I, ed. Arthur Kinney (Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1975), p. 28. 

38. /^iV/., pp. 28-29. 

39. The Whore of Babylon, in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, 2: 500. 

40. Plutarch, in The Philosophie, commonlie called the Morals, trans. Philemon Holland 
(London, 1603), asks why Saturn is sometimes called "the father of Trueth," and answers 
in a way that aligns truth with time: "Is it for that (as some philosophers deeme) they are 
of opinion that Saturne is Time? And Time you know well findeth out and revealeth the 
Truth. Or, because as the poets fable, men lived under Saturnes reigne in the golden age: 
and if the hfe of man was then most just and righteous, it followeth consequently that there 
was much trueth in the world" (p. 854). 

41. The Trial of Treasure, in Anonymous Plays, ed. John S. Farmer, Early English Dramatists, 
3rd ser. (1906; rpt. New York: Bames & Noble, 1966), p. 245. 

42. A Lamm for London, 1602, ed. W. W. Greg, Malone Society Reprints (1913; rpt. New York: 
AMS Press, 1985), sig. A^. In his prologue. Time refers to his "hoary scalpe" (1. 5) and his 
"feathers" (1. 10), indicating that he is white-haired and winged. 

43. Gilles Corrozet, Hecatomgraphie, introd. Alison Saunders, Continental Emblem Books 6 
(Paris, 1540; facsimile rpt. Ilkley, Yorkshire: Scolar Press, 1974), sig. Nii^. The figure 
holding the scales is identified as Le monde in the 1540 edition, but as Le temps in the 1543 
edition. 

44. Reproduced by Veldman, part 2, fig. 482/1 . 

45. Reproduced by Terisio Pignatti, Veronese, 2 vols. (Venice: Alfieri, 1976), vol. 2, fig. 302. 

46. The Sun 's Darling, in The Dramatic Works of Thomas Dekker, vol. 4. 

47. In 'Time and His 'Glass' in The Winter's Tale," Raymond J. Rundus notes that "in some of 
the popular devices of the period Time had as an attribute a mirror in which Death was 



64 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



reflected, either behind a human figure or behind Time himself, indicating the relentless 
intrusion of the future and its attendant decay upon the vitality of the present" (Shakespeare 
Quarterly 25 [1974]: 124-25). 



« Les Païens de la Pléiade » : 
L'Érotisme dans les Folas tries 
de Ronsard et dans les Gayetez 

d'Olivier de Magny 



DAVID 
DORAIS 



Summary: This article compares the eroticism ofRonsard's Folastries (1553) 
with that of the Gayetez (1554) of Olivier de Magny. Although the former 
exercised some influence on the latter, the eroticism of the two poets turns out to 
he very different, as much in thematic and stylistic terms as with regard to 
vocabulary. Moreover, on the conceptual level, when it comes to depicting the 
body and erotic technique, Magny proves to be far more chaste and less risqué 
than his master Nevertheless, the two share at once a belief in the aphrodisiac 
power of poetry and a mistrust of the sexual act itself 

« Les païens de la Pléiade »... L'expression vient de Paul Laumonier qui, 
dans r introduction au cinquième tome des Œuvres complètes de Ronsard, 
parle de Tinfluence qu'eut le livret des Folastries sur « tous les 'païens' de 
la nouvelle école, entre autres Baïf et Muret, auxquels il était dédié, Tahu- 
reau, Magny et la Peruse, qui l'imitèrent immédiatement »^. C'est donc que 
les Folastries se placeraient à l'origine de toute une lignée d' œuvres lestes 
— « mignardises », « gayetez » — qui, qualifiées de « païennes », se plai- 
raient à évoquer les voluptés de la chair, faisant fi d'une mauvaise conscience 
héritée du christianisme. Cet érotisme ronsardien n'a, selon nous, été étudié 
que rarement et, à plus forte raison, il a été négligé chez ces autres auteurs 
censés avoir été séduits par les Folastries. Nous nous proposons donc ici 
d'étudier l'érotisme dans le Livret de 1553 et de le comparer avec celui des 
Gayetez d'Olivier de Magny, recueil publié un an plus tard^. 

Cependant, cet érotisme qui représente l'objet principal de notre curio- 
sité^ est-il bien l'enjeu majeur des deux œuvres analysées? À l'examen, il 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 3 (1999) /65 



66 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



apparaît que la réponse est négative. C*est, en effet, une caractéristique 
importante de Térotisme au XVP siècle que de ne s* être pas encore constitué 
en genre littéraire à part entière ; on ne peut pas encore parler de récit ou de 
poésie erotique autonomes. Uérotisme est un thème libre et bienvenu dans 
toutes les œuvres de style bas, bucoliques, satires ou épigrammes, par 
exemple, mais on ne retrouve pas encore à la Renaissance française cette 
tension qui sera celle du roman libertin du XVIIP siècle, consacré tout entier 
à la mise en scène des ébats amoureux. Pour certains historiens"*, la littérature 
pornographique moderne, littérature marginale et de transgression, ne sera 
créée qu'en réaction à l'établissement d'une forte censure morale, c'est-à- 
dire à partir de la Réforme et de la Contre-Réforme, puis surtout avec le 
classicisme. De même, pour Jean-Marie Goulemot, spécialiste de la littéra- 
ture erotique, « chez Rabelais et les hommes de la Renaissance ou du 
préclassicisme, [la littérature erotique] voisinait avec les formes admises de 
la pratique littéraire, en une espèce de naturel et d'innocence gaillarde, qui 
faisait de sa lecture un acte culturel reconnu et accepté »^. L'érotisme à la 
Renaissance se module selon l'esthétique du mélange, ne structurant pas à 
lui seul des recueils entiers, mais inspirant plutôt certaines pièces légères qui 
se trouvent à côtoyer d'autres pièces d'inspiration toute différente. Ainsi, 
dans les Folastries, les odelettes franchement grivoises voisinent avec des 
pièces bachiques (VII, VIII, les Dithyrambes), mignardes (V, VI), parodi- 
ques (II) ou comiques et satiriques (les Épigrammes). Le cas est encore plus 
flagrant dans les Gayetezy où Magny parle de sensualité, mais loue également 
des personnages politiques contemporains, chante sa haute conception de la 
poésie ou célèbre le chien de sa dame. 

La fonction de l'érotisme 

Mais dans les pièces plus gauloises des deux auteurs, quelle est la fonction 
de l'érotisme? Quelle signification, quelle orientation particulière donne-t-il 
aux textes? Cette fonction change selon chacun des auteurs. En effet, chez 
Ronsard, l'érotisme joue un rôle beaucoup plus important que chez Magny. 
Tout d'abord, il sert à exprimer chez le Vendômois une nouvelle conception 
de l'amour, toute différente de celle des Amours de 1552 et qui préfigure, 
tout en s'en distinguant, la conception qui sera celle de la Continuation de 
1555. Tout différent de l'adoration pétrarquiste qui se voulait idéalisée et 
contemplative, l'amour exprimé dans les Folastries s'apparente plutôt à un 
désir charnel criant. Curieusement, Ronsard, « poète de la conquête amou- 
reuse », se heurte ici à une série de situations d'échec où l'union chamelle 



David Dorais / « Les Païens de la Pléiade » / 67 



se voit toujours frustrée. La « pucelette » qu'il convoite se trouve successi- 
vement, dans les odes I, II, III, V et VI, dérobée à son étreinte par un « Tyran 
de village », par « deux Soldars aventuriers », par Catin la bigote, par une 
famille alertée par un chien et par un « enfant quartannier ». C'est pourquoi 
les deux temps de conjugaison les plus courants dans les Folastries sont 
l'indicatif présent et le passé : soit la possession physique a déjà eu lieu et 
est maintenant perdue, soit le poète est, au moment où il parle, en train de 
se faire contester son ascendant sur les jeunes filles. Quelquefois le futur 
(« Sans vous je garderay bien / Vos sœurs » [II, v. 82-83]) ou le subjonctif 
couplé au conditionnel (« Que pleust à dieu que je peusse / Pour un soir 
devenir puce, /[...]/ Sans soupson je coucheroy / Entre tes bras, ma cruelle » 
[VI, V. 35-36, 42-43]) viennent introduire une note d'espoir. Mais en 
général, l'amour, loin d'être Une admiration lointaine, prend la forme d'un 
désir de proximité toujours d^joué^. Il s'agit d'une pulsion sensuelle crois- 
sante et jamais satisfaite, d'autant plus frustrante que l'évocation du corps 
féminin, lui, se fait sans ambages^. 

Cette nouvelle conception de l'amour reposant sur l'érotisme joue un 
autre rôle dans les Folastries. Selon nous, cette expression franche de la 
concupiscence sert à consolider le motif de la sincérité chez Ronsard. Le 
Livret, qui a heurté les mœurs publiques dès sa publication^, veut, par 
l'affirmation de désirs plus terre-à-terre, par l'imposition d'un ton licen- 
cieux, donner l'impression d'une prise de parole plus personnelle. Après 
avoir adopté le détachement pétrarquiste, Ronsard, par sa conversion au style 
bas qui s'amorce dans les Folastries, veut endosser une nouvelle persona, 
il veut donner au locuteur une apparence plus convaincante de sincérité, 
d'authenticité, de naturel. 

Dans les Gayetez de 1554, l'érotisme de Magny joue un rôle moins 
structurant. Il sert plutôt à illustrer d'autres grands thèmes déjà traités dans 
les Amours publiés un an plus tôt : la poésie, l'amitié et, au premier chef, 
l'amour. De quelle manière l'érotisme se joint-il ici à l'amour ? Les situa- 
tions amoureuses peintes par Magny relèvent encore en grande partie du 
schéma pétrarquiste : l'amant se plaint sur le mode élégiaque de la cruauté 
de sa dame, de cette « pucelette divine, / Qui [lui] ard le cœur et la poitrine » 
(XVI, V. 7-8) ; ainsi, dans l'odelette III, l'échec du baiser sert à montrer la 
froideur de la dame, qui repousse l'amant trop fougueux. L'objet de désir, 
comme chez Ronsard, reste insaisissable, et c'est pourquoi le mode de 
conjugaison le plus courant dans la poésie erotique de Magny, par exemple 
dans l'ode VI A s' amie, est l'impératif, mode qui indique une tension entre 



68 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



r homme et la femme, le désir de domination d'un objet qui ne nous 
appartient pas encore. Dans d'autres cas, le temps futur sert à donner forme 
à l'espoir que l'amour et l'érotisme survivront dans les Champs-Elysées : 
« Là nous irons, là noz douces amours / Doucettement ensemble conduyrons, 
/ Et d'un plaisir ensemble joiiyrons, /D'un doux plaisir qui durera tousjours » 
(G., XXX, V. 57-60). Mais très rarement l'amant parle-t-il au passé, comme 
dans l'ode XVP : au mieux, il peut passer à l'indicatif et au participe présent, 
tous deux concentrés dans l'immédiat de la sensualité, le premier évoquant 
plutôt l'instantanéité du plaisir, le second, le déroulement d'un geste dans 
un court laps de temps. 

Cependant, Magny, moins aventureux que Ronsard, affirme rarement 
avec véhémence ses élans charnels, il hésite à quitter le giron pétrarquiste 
pour aller imiter comme son maître la poésie latine hendécasyllabique 
inspirée de Catulle ; il utilise simplement l'érotisme pour illustrer l'amour 
conventionnel que Ronsard cherchait à rejeter. 

C'est peut-être à cause de ce schéma élégiaque onuiiprésent que Alistair 
MacKay, l'éditeur des Gayetez, a pu dire qu'elles n'étaient « ni erotiques ni 
réalistes » et qu'elles adoptaient « un certain ton sérieux »^^. De même, 
François Rouget dit que « seul l'éloignement caractérise cette relation bien 
fragile » entre l'amant et sa dame, et que « le style mignard simule habile- 
ment ou tente de combler le manque d'une familiarité conquise avec l'inter- 
locutrice »^^ Tandis que, chez Ronsard, l'érotisme constituait une nouvelle 
orientation thématique, stylistique et éthique, il n'est chez Magny guère plus 
qu'un motif chargé de donner corps au thème de l'amour pétrarquiste. Il faut, 
par contre, souligner que, malgré une thématique à demi mélancolique, le 
ton reste léger, grâce à l'ode courte de sept ou huit syllabes imitée de 
Ronsard^^. 

Le langage erotique 

La fonction de l'érotisme étant différente chez les deux auteurs, il en découle 
que cette différence déterminera la représentation de l'acte sexuel dans 
chacun des deux recueils. Il convient à ce propos de faire quelques remarques 
sur le langage. Chez Ronsard, le vocabulaire erotique se caractérise surtout 
par son prosaïsme : plusieurs parties du corps sont énumérées tout au long 
des poèmes, toujours avec le mot exact. Dans un souci de clarté dicté par le 
motif de la sincérité, le poète veut nous faire comprendre immédiatement 
quel est le réfèrent des mots qu'il utilise, tels le « flanc » (I, v. 77, 103), la 
« cuisse » (I, V. 79), la « fesse » (I, v. 87), la « bouche » (I, v. 133) ou les 



David Dorais / « Les Païens de la Pléiade » / 69 



« lèvres » (I, v. 134). Cependant, dans le cas du sein, Tétroitesse du vocabu- 
laire direct est corrigée par la variété des dénominations et l'on peut parler 
tour à tour de V« estomac » (I, v. 47, 165 ; III, v. 89), de la « poitrine » (I, v. 
88), des « tetins » (I, v. 102 ; III, v. 130), des « manmielles » (III, v. 14, 49 ; 
VI, V. 55) ou de la « tette » (VI, v. 24). Toutefois, quand il s'agit de parler 
des genitalia, la stratégie change légèrement : au lieu d'utiliser le terme 
exact, Ronsard préfère utiliser des sens étendus entrés dans la langue, donc 
parfaitement compréhensibles pour le lecteur de l'époque. En effet, le sens 
libre de mots tels que « motte » (colline, tertre), « fossette » (petite fosse) ou 
« Tribart » (bâton) est attesté dans les dictionnaires de langue ancienne. 
Ainsi, ce que cherche Ronsard, par l'utilisation du registre dénotatif, c'est 
moins de choquer ou de stimuler par l'utilisation d'un vocabulaire grossier 
que de créer une impression d'authenticité et de proximité entre le lecteur et 
le texte par l'évocation du corps au natureP^. 

Magny également professe sa foi en la nature, contre l'artifice pétrar- 
quiste : « Je hai de baiser ces marbres, / Ces peintures et ces arbres / 
Transformez en mile lieux / En mile images des dieux. / Ta seule bouche 
m'apaste, / Ta seule bouche me flate » (VI, v. 41-46). Mais malgré ce parti 
pris pour le corps lui-même au détriment de la parure, Magny n'utilise pas 
de mots crus, il évite les détails précis et réalistes et, tout compte fait, il utilise 
des métaphores luxueuses, certaines consacrées par Pétrarque, comparant 
les lèvres à des coraux (III, v. 52), le teint au lis (II, v. 17), ou le sexe féminin 
à une fleur dédiée à Vénus (XXXI, v. 14) ^4. Malgré ses prétentions au naturel, 
Magny semble incapable de se distancier du modèle esthétique féminin en 
vogue dans la poésie de l'époque. Il faut toutefois souligner qu'à une 
occasion, Magny utilise de belles comparaisons rustiques pour évoquer la 
dame, la peignant « finement blanche comme laict, / Doucette comme un 
aignelet, / Et fleurant comme marjoleine » (XXXVIII, v. 31-33)^^. Il faut 
également noter que, malgré leurs différences, Ronsard et Magny utilisent 
tous deux des diminutifs mignards, qui donnent à leurs odelettes un caractère 
de légèreté et de familiarité. 

La représentation du corps 

Inévitablement, la différence de vocabulaire utilisé par les deux poètes 
entraîne une différence dans la représentation du corps ; alors que chez 
Ronsard, le corps se veut le plus réaliste possible — l'auteur utilisant très 
rarement la métaphore — chez Magny, on a moins affaire à un corps de 
femme qu'à une statue de déesse faite d'ébène, d'ivoire et d'or. Mais au-delà 



70 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



de la représentation anatomique proprement dite, comment ce corps est-il 
mis en scène, quelles postures lui attribue-t-on pour provoquer un effet 
aguichant? Jean-Marie Goulemot considère que, dans le roman libertin, le 
procédé du tableau est l' élément-clé du récit erotique. Selon lui, « tout se 
fonde sur le regard. Il faut donner à voir par l'écriture. Le livre ne peut faire 
naître le désir de jouissance qu'en décrivant les corps offerts au désir et le 
stimulant, ou en mettant en scène le tableau des gestes et des attitudes de la 
jouissance elle-même »^^. Bien entendu, dans les poésies du XVP siècle, on 
ne retrouve pas ces vastes amalgames sadiens qui seront en vogue deux 
siècles plus tard. La femme est toujours présentée seule et le plus souvent 
offerte au toucher et au regard de l'amant, qui décrit son maintien et ses 
gestes. 

Ainsi, dans la première Folastrie, le poète compare deux « pucelettes », 
la « grasselette » et la « maigrelette ». Voulant expliquer pourquoi il aime 
l'une autant que l'autre, il se met à peindre sous nos yeux le corps passif des 
deux jeunes filles : « un grasselet enbonpoint, / Une fesse rebondie, / Une 
poitrine arondie / En deux monteletz bossus... » (I, v. 86-89) pour l'une, 
tandis que pour l'autre, « elle a les yeux verdeletz / Et les tetins maigreletz. 
/ Son flanc, sa cuisse, sa hanche, / N'ont pas la nege si blanche / Comme a 
l'autre... » (I, v. 101-5)^^. Dans d'autres cas, le corps de la pucelle peut se 
mettre à s'agiter, comme dans la troisième Folastrie, où la « maistresse » du 
poète, à moitié « bigotée » par Catin, la courtisane repentie qui elle-même, 
dans sa jeunesse, ne dédaignait pas « le mestier de l'un sus l'autre », veut 
repousser son amant trop entreprenant. Toutefois, alors qu'on la croirait 
devenue active, elle se révèle pourtant encore une fois passive, puisque c'est 
l'auteur qui dicte les mots de son discours ; celui-ci est piégé et, voulant se 
défendre, la jeune fille ne fait rien d'autre que décrire pour le lecteur les 
poses suggestives de son corps : 

Je ne veux plus que l'on m'acolle. 

Pource, ostez vostre main d'abas. 

Catin m'a dit qu'il ne faut pas 

Que chamelement on me touche, 

Halà ma Cousine, il me couche. 

Ha ha, lessez, lessez, lessez, 

Bran, poumeant vous me pressez, (...) 

Ma cuisse en biez accoustrée 

Vous défendra tousjours l'entrée, 

Et plus les bras vous m'entorsez. 

Et plus en vain vous efforcez. (III, 136-42 et 147-50) 



David Dorais / « Les Païens de la Pléiade » / 71 



Chez Magny également, la jeune amante est le plus souvent passive. 
Ainsi, dans l'ode III, le poète la trouve seule au bord d'un ruisseau, aban- 
donnée au sommeil et à moitié nue. Dans l'ode XXV Les Marîinales, c'est 
l'amante de Charbonier, l'un des participants à la bacchanale, qui se trouve 
soudain frappée par un trait de Cupidon et possédée par la fureur erotique, 
donnant lieu à l'une des scènes les plus explicites chez Magny, cependant 
inspirée en grande partie de Jean Second^ ^ : 

Si bien qu'elle, ainsi attainte, 

Soit contraincte 
De te requérir pardon. 
Te livrant de sa bouchette 

Vermeillette 
Mille baiseretz en don. 

Et t'allechant d'une haleine 

Toute pleine 
Des parfums de plus grand pris, 
De nectar, de miel d'Himette, 

De civete, 
De canelle et d'ambre gris. 

Et puis à ton col branchée, 

My-panchee 
D'estomac et de menton, 
Te laisse en ta bouche tordre. 

Voire mordre. 
Son petit poil foleton. 

Ou chercher de ces ponunettes 
Les frezettes 
Sur l'albastre de son sein. 
Ou chercher encor' le reste. 

Moins modeste. 
D'une frétillante main. (XXV, 121^U) 

Enfin, soulignons que chez Ronsard conune chez Magny, l'imagination 
constitue un autre procédé pour mettre en scène le corps de la dame. Par 
exemple, dans la Folastrie VI, le poète rêve de se transformer en puce pour 
surprendre son amie « toute seulette endormie (...) quand plus le doux 
sommeil / Luy enfleroit la mammelle » (VI, v. 52, 54-55). De même, Magny, 
lors d'une promenade aux champs, se prend à rêver de sa dame et à souhaiter 
qu'elle fût là ; « puis », dit-il, « la prenant soubz l'aisselle, / M'en irois 



72 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



avecques elle / Dans la forest bien avant » où il lui ferait « une plus douce 
feste » (Xni, V. 25-27, 29). 

L'art erotique 

Au-delà de la mise en scène du corps, les Folastries et les Gayetez offrent 
un point de vue privilégié sur Tart erotique au XVP siècle. Pour Michel 
Simonin, cet ars erotica de la Renaissance se réduit à des « lieux communs 
toujours récrits » derrière lesquels on retrouve « une pulsion quasi exclusive 
vers la génitalité, où les autres pratiques ne sont, quand elles sont, tout au 
plus que des préparations »^^. Cette affirmation est surtout vraie pour Ron- 
sard. En effet, celui-ci, bien qu'il laisse place à quelques raffinements comme 
le simple plaisir de toucher ou d'être serré dans les bras de sa dame, s'occupe 
surtout à décrire l'accouplement en tant que tel. Encore faut-il amener une 
précision : si Ronsard déploie son vocabulaire pour peindre le coït, son 
regard ne se fixe pas que sur la « génitalité ». Pour lui, l'important dans l'acte 
sexuel n'est pas les membres qui sont mis en jeu, mais bien l'élan, le 
dynamisme que cet acte entraîne. Parlant de l'union des amants, Ronsard 
utilisera pour suggérer le mouvement aussi bien des substantifs, comme 
« manimens fretillars », « tourdions », qui désignent des contorsions, des 
mouvements de danse, ou « trémoussante souplesse », que des verbes 
comme « ressecouer », « repousser », « remouvoir », « trépigner », « re- 
muer » ou « trémousser » ! 

Qui plus est, ce dynamisme inhérent à l'acte sexuel, Ronsard ne le voit 
pas qu'au niveau microcosmique : il est pour lui le symbole de l'harmonie 
de l'univers tout entier. C'est ce que suggère la Folastrie IV, pièce entière- 
ment composée sur le modèle de l'équilibre et de la réciprocité. En effet, 
dans la dernière scène de cette odelette, Jaquet « jauche » Robine et le 
mouvement ainsi initié se transmet à toute la nature : 

Et le bon Jaquet qui l'embroche 

Fist trépigner tous les Sylvains 

Du dru maniment de ses reins. 

Les boucs barbus qui l'agueterent, 

Paillars, sur les chèvres montèrent, 

Et ce Jaquet contr' aguignant 

Alloient à l'envy trépignant. (IV, 92-98) 

Le geste des deux humains est repris et imité par tous les « Sylvains » 
symbolisant les forces primitives de la nature. Véros, pour Ronsard, dans 
une conception proche de celle d'Éryximaque dans le Banquet, est un 



David Dorais / « Les Païens de la Pléiade » / 73 



principe universel, une force contagieuse qui se communique au cosmos et 
en assure l'équilibre. 

En comparaison, l'art erotique de Magny est beaucoup plus chaste. 
Rarement évoque-t-il le « dernier point », se contentant de plaisirs plus 
sages. C'est en ce sens que le baiser constitue le cœur de son univers erotique. 
Ce baiser peut être très fougueux, comme dans l'ode VI A s 'amie, où la 
description du baiser à l'italienne permet à Magny de déployer tout un 
vocabulaire olfactif et gustatif, utilisant également des motifs empruntés à 
Jean Second, tel celui des tourterelles se bécotant. Mais la plupart du temps, 
le comportement de l'amant chez Magny se veut honnête, décent, presque 
révérencieux, comme dans l'ode III Du ravissement de son ame, où l'amou- 
reux éploré découvre sa dame endormie au bord d'un ruisseau et s'agenouille 
devant elle pour embrasser ses lèvres. 

Chez Magny, comme chez Ronsard, on trouve aussi le simple plaisir de 
toucher, plaisir qui permet de nommer les membres du corps ; dans le geste 
de l'amant qui palpe, on sent presque celui de l'artiste qui sculpte. Ronsard 
parle de « tater [la] cuissette, / Ou fesser [la] fesse grossette » (III, 127-28), 
tandis que Magny se lance dans une longue enumeration, où le plaisir tactile 
n'est pas loin du plaisir lingual : 

Et la bouchelette tienne 
Couche à plat dessus la mienne, 
Laissant folastrer ma main 
Soubz le voile de ton sein, 
Ore entre tes deux pommettes, 
Ore sur tes deux fresettes, 
Puis redoublant ces esbatz, 
Folastrer encor' plus bas, 
Et d'une main plus hardie 
Taster ta cuisse arrondie, 
Ton ventrelet arrondi. 
Et ton petit rebondi... (VI, 93-104) 

Cependant, l'art erotique de Magny consiste le plus souvent à faire 
l'amour de loin, par l'échange, quand l'échange est possible, de baisers 
chastes et généralement, comme le souligne François Rouget, « de manière 
indirecte »^^, par l'intermédiaire d'objets ou de fantasmes. Enfin, soulignons 
la présence chez Magny d'une délicatesse particulière, celle de ne faire 
« mile petitz jeuz mignards » avec sa « Nymfelette » que durant le jour, « si 
bien que l'aube vermeille, / Ou Phebus, dès qu'il s 'es veille, / Folastrans [les] 
puisse voir / Du matin jusques au soir » (VI, v. 105-8). Ici encore, la lumière 



74 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



du jour vient introduire une distance entre T amant et sa dame, là où la nuit 
aurait favorisé la fusion des corps. 

Ërotisme et poésie 

Malgré les différences relevées jusqu'ici, les érotismes de Ronsard et de 
Magny partagent cependant certains points communs. Au premier plan est 
la croyance en la puissance de la poésie dans le cadre des jeux amoureux. Si 
l'amant ronsardien est constamment frustré dans son désir, son statut de 
poète lui permet de gagner un certain ascendant sur les jeunes filles. Ainsi, 
dans la première Folastrie, il avoue qu'il « paye » les faveurs de la maigre- 
lette et de la grasselette « en Chansonnettes, en rymes, et en sornettes » (I, 
V. 175-76). De la même manière, dans la troisième Folastrie, il fait de sa 
poésie un instrument de vengeance, destiné à punir Catin la bigote : « Sus 
donq, pour venger mon esmoy, / Sus, ïambes, secourez moy, / Venez, ïambes, 
sur la teste / De ce luitton, de ceste beste » (III, 157-60). Mais la poésie ne 
se révèle pas toute-puissante et ne garantit pas à l'amant un triomphe 
amoureux. Au contraire, le langage du poète peut être contré par le langage 
de la censure, qui intervient encore pour lui ôter sa maîtresse, soit que c'est 
« le Tyran de ce village » qui « souille de son langage » (I, v. 1 80) la grasse 
et la maigre pucelles, qui « farcist [leurs] noms de blasmes, / D'un mesdire 
trop amer » (v. 192-93), soit que c'est Catin qui, par ses discours, « ose bien 
prescher [sa] pucelle, / Pour la convertir ainsi qu'elle / À mille bigotations / 
Dont elle a mille inventions » (III, v. 99-102). 

L'optimisme est plus grand chez Magny : pour lui, la poésie a tous 
pouvoirs sur l'objet de son désir. Par exemple, dans l'ode XIX, la poésie 
permet d'obtenir des faveurs de la part de sa dame : qu'elle lui donne un 
« doulx baiseret » et en retour il fera « un metre, / Qui maugré la rigueur du 
temps / Éternisera [son] printemps » (v. 74-76) ; mais si elle se refuse à cet 
échange, la Muse poétique pourrait bien se courroucer. Magny reprend ici 
les mêmes thèmes que Ronsard abordait dans les Folastries — la poésie 
comme monnaie d'échange et comme instrument de punition — mais sur un 
ton beaucoup plus confiant. 

La pièce la plus intéressante à ce titre est l' ode XVIII, dédiée à Ambroise 
de La Porte, fils de Maurice de La Porte, l'éditeur des Folastries ; cette ode 
se présente à la fois comme une reconnaissance de l'influence directe de 
Ronsard, un récit de la genèse du recueil des Gayetez et un éloge de la 
puissance de la poésie, véritable stimulant et substitut erotique. Dans cette 
odelette, Magny raconte comment un jour, alors qu'il « folastroit en maincte 



David Dorais / « Les Païens de la Pléiade » / 75 



sorte / Avec la Nymfe en qui [il] vit » (v. 8-9), on lui apporta le livret grivois 
de Ronsard. Aussitôt que le livre entra dans la chambre, « [sa] nymfette 
refolastra, / Et [lui] soubdain avecques elle / Folastra encor' de plus belle » 
(v. 18-20). Alors chacun des amants se mit à lire et ils se mirent à « refolas- 
trer » encore plus qu'avant. La volupté éveillée chez les amants est si forte 
que Magny promet enfin à Ambroise de La Porte de T inviter la prochaine 
fois à se joindre à leurs ébats et lui offre en paiement son propre recueil de 
« gayetez ». Ainsi, le pouvoir de séduction des « doctes folies » de Ronsard 
est tel qu'il séduit la jeune femme et qu'il provoque un véritable plaisir 
physique chez T amant, plaisir qui se transformera à son tour en un autre 
recueil de vers. 

Érotisme dysphorique et anti-érotisme 

À l'intérieur même de ces deux recueils erotiques que sont les Folastries et 
les Gayetez, il nous semble toutefois voir poindre une méfiance face au désir 
charnel. Cette méfiance prend chez Ronsard la forme d'un érotisme dyspho- 
rique, noir, abreuvé entre autres par la misogynie de l'époque. C'est cette 
misogynie qui le pousse à souligner l'aspect maléfique et bestial du sexe 
féminin, « si bien, que quand [il] la perse / [II] sent les dentz d'une herse, / 
[II] entend mill' ossetz cornus, / Qui [lui] blessent les flancs nus » (I, v. 
11 1-14). Il est ici question de la « pucelette maigrelette », mais c'est surtout 
le personnage de Catin, la courtisane de l'ode III, qui se veut l'incarnation 
de l'érotisme néfaste. En effet, dès sa jeunesse, alors qu'elle pratique le 
« mestier [...] où l'un dessus l'autre se veautre », son appétit est si vorace 
qu'il rend ses amants malades de « la fièvre continue » et les mène droit au 
tombeau ; c'est pourquoi Ronsard la décrit comme « Catin, non jamais 
soûlée / De tuer, pour estre foulée » (III, v. 37-38). Puis, une fois que Catin 
est convertie, sa paillardise ne diminue pas en force et entraîne toujours des 
conséquences aussi macabres, puisqu'elle la pousse à hanter les cimetières 
et à s'y « veautr[er] sus les corps » (III, v. 71) des morts, comme elle le faisait 
sur celui de ses amants. Ainsi, pour Ronsard, l'érotisme peut aussi comporter 
sa part de souffrance et de laideur. 

Chez Magny, la méfiance envers l'acte charnel prend la forme plus 
radicale d'un anti-érotisme. Curieusement, au cœur de ce recueil de « gayetez », 
des accents de chasteté s'élèvent pour condamner l'instinct sexuel. Ce que 
Magny condamne, en fait, c'est ce même désir qui sous- tend tout le Livret 
ronsardien, le désir enflammé et dévorant qui ne peut trouver satisfaction. 
L'auteur lui donne plusieurs dénominations, certaines plutôt neutres, comme 



76 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



« ardeur extreme » (III, v. 10) ou « ardeur nompareille » (in, v. 25), d'autres 
plus négatives, qui soulignent la menace qu'il fait planer sur le principe 
spirituel de l'homme, comme ce « regret si chauld, qu'il renflame / Tous les 
sentimens de [son] ame » (VII, v. 11-12), « l'ardeur de [son] ame assaillie » 
(XXXI, V. 7), ou encore cette « chaleur qui trop [le] maistrise » (XXXVIII, 
V. 21)^^ Mais c'est dans la pièce bachique des Martinales que la condamna- 
tion se fait la plus virulente, lorsque Magny encourage son ami Charbonier 
à laisser s'éteindre son ardeur sensuelle, décrite comme une folie : 

Là, là, Charbonier, courage, 

Ceste rage 
Qui nous forcené les sens 
Pourra bien qu'on n'y travaille, 

Ne te chaille, 
S'alenter avec le tems. 

Je veux. Amy, que tu gettes 
Jusqu'aux Gettes 
Ce soing, acharné mastin... (XXV, v. 265-73) 

Pour Magny, comme pour Ronsard, la pulsion erotique peut se révéler 
dangereuse, lorsqu'elle vient menacer l'équilibre mental de l'individu. 

De cette étude sur l'érotisme dans les Folasîries et les Gayetez, nous 
pouvons conclure qu'il n'existe pas un style erotique unique de la Pléiade, 
qui aurait été initié par Ronsard en 1553 et qui se serait transmis à ses 
imitateurs. Même chez un disciple aussi immédiat que Magny, l'érotisme 
change radicalement de physionomie comme de fonction. Il suffit de men- 
tionner une autre œuvre en lien direct avec les Folasîries pour s'en convain- 
cre. Dans les Mignardises de Jacques Tahureau, publiées elles aussi en 1554, 
l'érotisme prend à nouveau une forme différente. Il devient cette fois un 
monde en lui-même : la liaison sensuelle entre l'amant et sa maîtresse est 
donnée dès le début et les poèmes grossissent démesurément cette liaison, 
n'ayant pour fonction que d'en explorer le potentiel erotique, d'en découvrir 
tous les gestes cachés, de dresser au fur et à mesure les règles des jeux 
amoureux, dans un cadre bucolique et avec la complicité de la nuit. Et, alors 
que chez Ronsard et Magny, l'univers erotique était dominé par la figure 
masculine, la femme ici participe aux ébats au même titre que l'homme et 
double ainsi les possibilités sensuelles que recèle cette relation. 

Ainsi, ce que Ronsard a transmis aux poètes « païens » qui l'ont suivi, 
c'est un ton poétique — et non un modèle — plus libre, plus franc, lui-même 
inspiré de la poésie latine et néo-latine et incorporant des éléments des realia 



David Dorais / « Les Païens de la Pléiade » / 77 



de r époque. Cependant, Ronsard est celui qui est allé le plus loin dans 
l'expression de la gauloiserie. Les Folastries, publiées en 1553, la même 
année que Tode A une dame de Du Bellay, signalent un changement dans la 
sensibilité littéraire de l'époque et dans le style de Ronsard ; le modèle 
amoureux pétrarquiste commence à se faire trop pesant et Ton sent monter 
le désir, le temps de quelques recueils, de chanter des passions plus gail- 
lardes, comme celui d'adopter un style plus bas. 

Université McGill 



Notes 

1. Pierre de Ronsard, Œuvres complètes, t. 5, Paul Laumonier, éd., Paris, Hachette, 1928, p. 
XVIII. En outre, Marcel Raymond, dans L'influence de Ronsard sur la poésie française 
(1550-1585), Genève, Droz, 1965, parlera de Magny comme du « païen de la Brigade » 
(p. 237). 

2. Nous utiliserons l'édition de Laumonier pour les Folastries et, pour Magny, l'édition 
d'Alistair MacKay des Gayetez, Genève, Droz, 1968. 

3. Sans vouloir nous lancer dans de grandes discussions sur la nature de l'érotisme, disons 
simplement que, pour nous, l'érotisme littéraire se définit comme une représentation 
littéraire et/ou poétique de l'acte sexuel, c'est-à-dire une représentation linguistique (qui 
sera abordée surtout dans la première moitié de cet article) et une représentation imaginaire, 
mettant en image la relation chamelle (abordée dans la deuxième moitié). 

4. Voir, par exemple, Jean-Louis Flandrin, Le Sexe et l'Occident. Evolution des attitudes et 
des comportements, Paris, Seuil, 1981, chapitre 14, p. 279-303. 

5. Jean-Marie Goulemot, Ces livres qu'on ne lit que d'une main, Aix-en-Provence, Alinéa, 
1991, p. 25. 

6. Claude Blum, « Peinture de la souffrance et représentation du moi dans la poésie amoureuse 
de Ronsard », Sur des vers de Ronsard, 1585-1985, actes du colloque international, Duke 
University, 11-13 avril 1985, éd. Marcel Tetel, Paris, Aux amateurs de Hvres, 1990, p. 
30-36, remarque le même schéma de désir irréalisable dans les toutes les Amours de 
Ronsard. Selon lui, « l'objet convoité se dérobe à la saisie » et l'amour se situe donc « à la 
rencontre d'un puissant désir et d'obstacles qui s'opposent à sa réalisation ». C'est ce qui 
détermine la représentation de l'amour propre à Ronsard, qui « se dessine sur le fond d'une 
poétique du manque et de l'insatisfaction » (p. 30). 

7. C'est ce désir effréné qui détermine, selon nous, la représentation magnifiée du sexe 
masculin, souvent tendu dans les Folastries (cf. III, v. 151-54 ; Sonet, v. 1-8). 

8. Comment expliquer autrement qu'il ait été publié anonymement? Pour cette question, voir 
Catharine Randall, « Poetic License, Censorship and the Unrestrained Self : Ronsard's 
Livret de folastries », Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature, t. 23 (1996), n° 
45, p. 449-62. 

9. « Voilà comment un beau matin, / Je gaignay dans un beau jardin / Le cueur de ma Nymfe 
adorée » (v. 73-75). 



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10. Op. cit., p. X-XI. 

11. François Rouget, « Olivier de Magny, amant libertaire et poète de l'inconstance », Revue 
des Amis de Ronsard, n» 1 1 (juin 1998), p. 106. 

1 2. Sur ce mélange entre une thématique élégiaque et un ton inspiré des vers hendécasyllabiques 
latins, voir MacKay, op. cit., p. XXVI. 

13. Il faut souligner toute la distance qui sépare cette conception de l'érotisme de celle que 
résume le critique contemporain Roland Barthes, pour qui « l'endroit le plus erotique d'un 
corps » est « là où le vêtement bâille », là où « la peau (...) scintille entre deux pièces (...), 
entre deux bords » {Le Plaisir du texte, Paris, Seuil, coll. « Points », 1973, p. 19). Cette 
conception de l'érotisme est celle du dévoilement, du voyeurisme, de la transgression et 
elle est selon nous surtout moderne ; on ne trouve pas dans les Folastries cette jouissance 
qui consiste à dépasser les limites, à aller au-delà des interdits : le plus souvent, le corps 
s'offre immédiatement nu, tel qui l'est. Pour un contre-exemple, voir le sonnet XXXI des 
Gayetez, où le poète entrevoit une cuisse blanche sous un vêtement noir et prie la dame de 
lui dévoiler le reste. 

14. À ce propos, Philip Ford note que déjà, dans la poésie erotique latine, les organes génitaux 
de la femme sont souvent comparés à des fleurs (« Jean Salmon Macrin's Epithalamiorum 
Liber and the Joys of Conjugal Love », Éros et Priapus. Érotisme et obscénité dans la 
littérature néo-latine, éd. Ingrid de Smet et Phihp Ford, Cahiers d'Humanisme et Renais- 
sance, t. 51, Genève, Droz, 1997, p. 80). 

1 5 . Cette descri ption peut s ' inspirer de 1 ' anacréonti sme, remi s à la mode dans ces mêmes années 
par Henri Estienne, puisqu'il publie dans les premiers mois de 1554 les poésies d'Anacréon 
(en fait surtout des imitations alexandrines), qu'il avait retrouvées en 1549 lors d'un voyage 
en Italie. En outre, certaines de ces comparaisons sont déjà, au moment où écrit Magny, 
passées dans le langage, puisque Giuseppe Di Stefano relève, dans son Dictionnaire des 
locutions en moyen français, Montréal, CERES (Bibliothèque du Moyen français 1), 1991, 
la locution « blanc comme lait ». 

16. Goulemot, op. cit., p. 55. 

17. Il faut remarquer, et cela semble être une caractéristique constante, repérable à travers le 
temps, de l'érotisme masculin (cf. Francesco Alberoni, L' Érotisme, Paris, Ramsay, 1987, 
sur la notion de « discontinuité » de l'érotisme masculin), sinon de l'érotisme tout court, 
que le corps n'est perçu que d'une manière fragmentée. À la manière des blasons 
anatomiques, on se plaît, proprement, à détailler le corps, à le débiter pour mieux le 
manipuler. Le poète, dans une posture presque adamique, ne fait que nommer l'un après 
l'autre les membres à valeur érogène, comme pour les objectiver, les transformer en simples 
choses, plus utiles que belles. 

1 8. Les références aux Baisers de Jean Second {Les Baisers, éd. Olivier Sers, Paris, Les Belles 
Lettres, 1996) que l'on retrouve ici sont nombreuses. Il y a, bien sûr, le dénombrement des 
baisers, procédé lui-même inspiré de Catulle ; les « mille baiseretz » de Magny rappellent 
l'échange entre Second et Nééra : « Je t'en ai donné mille et en ai reçu mille » (VI, v. 2). 
Le motif de l'haleine parfumée n'est pas non plus une invention de Second, puisque son 
origine remonte à V Anthologie Palatine, mais il utihse pour décrire l'odeur de la bouche 
des comparaisons que Magny semble avoir reprises presque textuellement : « C'est un 
nectar, non des baisers, que Nééra / Me verse en son haleine aux suaves parfums, / Elle y 



David Dorais / « Les Païens de la Pléiade » / 79 



verse le thym, le nard et la cannelle / Et le miel que l'abeille aux cimes de l'Hymette / Va 
butiner sur les rosiers en fleur » (IV, v. 1-5). Enfin, l'amante de Charbonier décrit un beau 
geste passionné (« à ton col branchée, my-panchee... »), mimant en cela l'amante de 
Second : « Tu te suspends à mon col, Nééra, / Tù joins ta bouche adorable à ma lèvre, / 
Mordant et remordant, râlant sous la morsure » (V, v. 4-6). L'érotisme chez Magny, dans 
ses moments les plus enflammés, s'inspire peu des élégiaques latins et plutôt des poètes 
néo-latins, Jean Second au premier plan. 

19. Michel Simonin, « Éros aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles : les limites du savoir », Eros in Francia 
nel Seicento, éd. P.A. Jannini, G. Dotoli et P. Carile, Quademi del seicento francese, t. 8, 
Bari, Adriatica ; Paris, Nizet, 1987, p. 29. 

20. Rouget, op. cit., p. 106. 

21. Dans la vision de Magny, la violence du désir sensuel est telle qu'elle contraint même le 
Roi des dieux à descendre du ciel pour satisfaire son appétit charnel, pour « nourrir dans 
son ame / L'ardeur de l'amoureuse flame » (XXXVIII, v. 17-18). 



Reviews 
Comptes rendus 



Philip Ford. Ronsard's Hymnes. A literary and iconographical study. Medieval 
and Renaissance Texts and Studies, volume 157. Tempe, AZ, Medieval and 
Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1997. R ix, 337. 

Quand le bateau qui l'emmenait en Ecosse longeait la côte anglaise, le jeune 
Ronsard était loin d'imaginer que de cette région viendraient plusieurs critiques 
inspirés pour commenter ses Hymnes. Ronsard était hier le débiteur de T. Cave, de 
M. Quainton, il l'est aujourd'hui de Ph. Ford. Le projet de l'auteur est d'éclairer 
toute la production hymnique sous le faisceau conjugué des beaux-arts et du 
néo-platonisme (« Preface »). Dans son premier chapitre (« Introduction »), il 
considère Ronsard comme l'un des poètes les plus visuels qui soient dans sa manière 
de composer. Cette particularité a conduit le critique à porter son attention aussi 
bien sur les sources plastiques que sur les sources littéraires : « Thus, (...) some 
fruitful conclusions will emerge if we consider how Ronsard may have been 
following, mutatis mutandis, the practice of Renaissance artists in writing narrative 
and descriptive poetry » (p. 8). Ford suit ici E. H. Gombrich, qui rapporte la 
production d'images à deux concepts philosophiques : l'un, aristotélicien, suppose 
un déchiffrement analogique « horizontal » (la coupe de Dionysos est l'équivalent 
du bouclier d' Aies) ; l'autre, platonicien, considère les symboles comme reliés par 
une chaîne, véritables hiéroglyphes d'une révélation ménagée par Dieu. Dans cette 
perspective, les prestigieuses œuvres ornementales qui ont vu le jour dans la 
décennie 1540-1550 (en particulier la Galerie François P*" de Fontainebleau) n'ont 
pu manquer de marquer profondément les jeunes poètes de la Pléiade. Transposée 
dans les Hymnes, l'action picturale produit le télescopage des événements narrés, 
elle donne aux détails une signification qui n'est pas seulement esthétique et 
décorative, mais qui représente l'extension du thème principal, elle gouverne enfin 
l'architecture de l'ensemble des Hymnes. 

Les chapitres 2 (« The Theoretical Background ») et 3 (« Ecphrasis and 
Hypotyposis ») servent de fondement théorique à l'étude des Hymnes qui couvrira 
les chapitres suivants. Reprenant les trois moments de l'élaboration rhétorique, 

Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 3 (1999) /8 1 



82 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



l'auteur s'attache aux conceptions de Proclus sur Vinventio (division en poètes 
inspirés, didactiques et mimétiques), ce qui permet d'interpréter le texte de 
Ronsard à différents niveaux ; il distingue deux aspects de la dispositio (structure 
interne d'une pièce et composition d'un ouvrage entier) et, pour Velocutio, s'at- 
tache aux catégories du maniérisme imaginées par John Shearman (Mannerism 
[Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1967]) : la variété, l'abondance, la monstruosité, l'obs- 
curité, le decorum. Si Vecphrasis dans la tradition didactique aristotélicienne — 
la description symbolique du rocher de Vertu, par exemple — ne nécessite pas une 
longue présentation, Vecphrasis dans la tradition néo-platonicienne obéit à des 
règles plus complexes qui dépendent d'une interprétation à découvrir. Le plus 
choquant, par exemple la description d'un tableau montrant Mars et Vénus enlacés, 
peut s'entendre comme l'harmonie nécessaire à la compréhension des vérités 
divines. Ford passe en revue une série de pièces de Ronsard, comme « La Lyre », 
où Vecphrasis illustre de grandes vérités présentées dans des parties didactiques 
antérieures du poème. On lit des considérations similaires sur Vhypotypose. 

Le chapitre 4 (« The Early Hymns ») permet à Ford de préciser ce qui l'a séduit 
dans son sujet : l'unité d'un style élevé qui combine plusieurs poétiques et l'extension 
du genre, qui englobe toute la carrière de Ronsard. Les sources des Hymnes ronsardiens 
sont essentiellement les hymnes homériques, Callimaque, les hymnes orphiques et 
surtout Manille, qui incorpore dans une synthèse néo-platonicienne Callimaque, Lu- 
crèce, Catulle et surtout les hymnes orphiques. S'ajoutent à cette liste les écrits théoriques 
de Ménandre le Rhéteur, importants sur la question de l'arrangement des hymnes. Ceux 
de Ronsard sont essentiellement naturels ou mythologiques et demeurent difficiles à 
définir tant ils regorgent d'éléments disparates. Aussi l'auteur a-t-il préféré s'en tenir, 
comme M. Dassonville, à une définition structurale simple dans sa forme. Plutôt qu'à 
l'unité des Hymnes, largement hypothétique, il s'attache à leur développement graduel. 
Parti du panégyrique (r« Hymne de France »), en passant par la paraphrase d'une ode 
saphique (r« Hinne à la Nuit »), Ronsard s'approche, avec V« Hinne de Bacus », de la 
figure que revêtiront ses grands poèmes de 1555-1556 : références aux sources, accord 
avec les motifs traités dans les arts visuels, discordia concors et fureur poétique. Ces 
deux derniers thèmes établissent un véritable lien, qu'on trouvera constamment présent 
dans les recueils de 1555-1556, entre le monde sublunedre et le monde céleste. 

Le chapitre 5 (« The Hymns of 1555 ») est sans doute le pivot de l'ouvrage. Ford 
y inscrit une nouvelle interprétation des Hymnes de 1555, qui s'appuie à la fois sur le 
contenu de chaque pièce et sur la disposition de l'ensemble. Le néo-platonisme de 
Ronsard est perceptible dans la tension qui s'établit entre le monde sublunaire et le monde 
céleste, tension dont chaque hymne du recueil porte les traces, mais d'une manière non 
uniforme qui laisse la prépondérance à l'ici-bas dans les hymnes du début et à l'univers 
incorruptible dans les hymnes de la fin. Pour prendre l'exemple de la plus forte opposition 
mise en évidence, r« Hymne d'Henry II » est loin d'être la pièce encomiastique qu'on 
se plaît à y voir. Si le roi ressemble aux dieux, c'est par la puissance mihtaire essentiel- 
lement et non par ses qualités poétiques. Henri n règne sur un monde dominé par la 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 83 



discorde, même s'il pratique la piété filiale envers son père, la générosité envers les 
architectes et les peintres, même s'il connaît et exerce la justice. Après M.-R. Jung (qu'il 
cite), l'auteur nous apprend qu'Henri II était le roi le moins comparé à Hercule. 
Précisément V« Hercule Chrestien », à l'autre extrémité du recueil, s'interprète selon une 
typologie syncrétiste. Tout invite à dépasser le parcours terrestre d'Hercule. Le Messie 
promis a été annoncé aux juifs et aux gentils, mais dans les deux cas, la prophétie a été 
mal comprise : « Again, this fits in with the Renaissance belief that ancient philosophers 
like Plato had received divine illumination » (p. 150). La royauté d'Hercule l'attacherait 
au monde sublunaire, mais justement Hercule n'est pas Hercule, il est le Christ qui 
intervient dans la création pour annoncer le salut et l'avènement du royaume céleste. On 
met en relief une même antithèse entre 1' « Hymne de la Justice », où l'on voit la déesse 
quitter la terre maintenant qu'on vit dans l'Age de fer, et !'« Hymne de l'or », qui n'est 
pas toujours univoque et très cohérent, mais où Ronsard montre que s'il est utilisé 
adéquatement, le précieux métal peut aider à recréer un nouvel Âge d'or. Certaines 
évocations du matérialisme peuvent choquer, mais elles appartiennent à la tradition 
néo-platonicienne qui, selon Proclus, sollicitent l'interprétation dans un plus haut sens. 
Se répondent aussi en antithèses « Le Temple du Connestable et des Chastillons » et 
r« Hymne de la Mort », V« Hymne de la Philosophie » et V« Hymne des Astres », la 
« Prière à la Fortune » et V« Hymne du Ciel ». Si les cinq premiers hymnes du recueil 
ont trait essentiellement aux vicissitudes du monde sublunaire, les cinq derniers imposent 
une vision du monde céleste. 

Restent « Les Daimons » qui forment le cœur de l'organisation. Ford considère 
que « like the frescoes in the Galeria François P"", these hymns are organized in a ring 
pattern around a central pivot. Les Daimons » (p. 131), Dans l'hymne entier, ces 
créatures sont présentées comme de constants intermédiaires entre les mondes sublu- 
naire et céleste. Bien plus que Psellos ou Apulée, Proclus commentant le Timée paraît 
à l'auteur la vraie source des « Daimons » : « For the generation of demons fills all 
the space between the gods and men [traduction d'un passage du philosophe néo-pla- 
tonicien]. » Ces interprétations le conduisent à présenter une disposition du recueil 
par inclusion selon le schéma que je reproduis ici : 

Henryll 

Justice 

Temple 

Philosophie 

Fortune 

Daimons 

Ciel 

Astres 

Mort 

- Or 
Hercule Chrestien 



84 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Le contenu de chacune des pièces ressortit à une conception néo-platonicienne 
chrétienne, la disposition d'ensemble confirme ce sens découvert : 

The dispositio of the 1555 hymns has been central in my discussion, with the circular ring 
pattern mirroring the Platonic notion of perfection both in the book as a whole as well as 
in individual poems. In addition, it also reflects the circular movement of the heavens, 
which is such an important theme in the five central hymns of the collection. The kind of 
comment made by Rudolph Wittkover with regard to Renaissance church design, by 
McAllister Johnson about the Galerie François I^*^ , and by Margaret McGowan about 
Renaissance dance, are apphcable to the structure of Ronsard's first collection of hynms : 
harmony may be introduced into the sublunar world not only through the content of the 
hynms, but also through their forms, (p. 197-98) 

Dans le chapitre 6 (« Le Second Livre des Hymnes »), Ford insiste sur deux 
changements : l'aspect plus tourmenté des trois premières pièces (en surface du 
moins) et la thématique très unitaire de la poésie comme élévation. Si, dans 
l'hymne consacré à l'Eternité, celle-ci figure dans un décor apocalyptique, si la 
Nature, très imparfaite, ne se maintient que grâce à la « réparation » que suggère 
Vénus, le poète s'impose en premier lieu comme celui qui peut préserver le passé 
et permettre à l'homme d'entrevoir « la sainte lumière ». Marguerite de France, à 
qui l'hymne est dédié, représente la caution de l'immortalité poétique liée à 
l'Eternité. L'importance du Vates est explicitée de plusieurs façons dans V« Hymne 
de Calais et de Zetes » ; en particulier, Orphée jouit du privilège de ne pas 
participer aux efforts de la navigation, il est le second après Jason ; de tous les 
poètes qui ont mis en scène Phinée, Ronsard est le seul à n'émettre aucune réserve 
sur ce devin. Le caractère inclusif de la composition souligne l'antagonisme de 
certains thèmes opposés en même temps que la circularité évoque la perfection 
associée aux Muses et à Apollon. Malgré les « accidents » de la narration, le 
message adressé au roi Henri II par son poète est tout à fait clair. Plus encore que 
Calais et Zéthès, Castor et Pollux marquent, dans l'hymne qui leur est consacré, 
l'élévation néo-platonicienne du poète : ils sont « Chantres victorieux. Chevaliers 
& Poètes » (v. 81). La bataille pourtant sauvage des Dioscures contre Lyncée et 
les défenseurs des filles de Leucippe peut s'interpréter comme le combat de 
l'amour céleste contre l'amour profane et comme la victoire de l'immortalité sur 
la mort. S'achevant avec l'épître à Charles de Lorraine et l'élégie à Chretophle de 
Choiseul, qui insistent sur le rôle primordial du poète, le second livre des Hymnes 
se révèle plus grandiose que le premier, parce que le symbolisme didactique de 
1555 y cède à une structure polysémique d'images poétiques et que le recueil est 
plus riche et plus accidenté sur le plan de la narration. Le thème des Argonautes, dont 
Ford montre de façon convaincante combien il est en faveur dans l'iconographie 
« officielle », offre toute sa fécondité : Orphée parmi les navigateurs souligne le 
rôle primordial du poète dans la société aristocratique ; ses compagnons font 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 85 



réfléchir sur la conquête et ses dangers ; enfin ce thème hérite des ressources 
intertextuelles d'Homère et de Virgile. 

Le chapitre 7 (« The Seasons ») est consacré essentiellement aux hymnes des 
//// Saisons de Van. Ces pièces suivent de très près la tradition mythologique de 
l'iconographie des saisons. Aux trois premières saisons (« Printemps », « Esté », 
« Autonne ») est dévolu le principe créateur du monde sublunaire. Cette fonction 
est surtout sensible dans la collaboration des Saisons célestes (les Heures) avec le 
Soleil lorsqu'il séduit Nature pour créer les Saisons terrestres. Été en particulier. 
Dans r« Hymne de l' Autonne », les descriptions maniéristes abondent, elles 
interrompent le flot narratif tout en rendant plus compréhensible le sens des 
différentes scènes. Quant à Y« Hymne de l'Hyver », il marque la différence entre 
les temps terrestre et céleste ; nouvelle gigantomachie, il se prête à une interpré- 
tation allégorique comme celle que Proclus, à propos du Timée, 23 D et E, fait de 
la naissance d'Érichthonios, engendré de la semence céleste d'Hephaistos et de la 
Terre. Dans son bref chapitre 8 (« Conclusion »), l'auteur revient sur le caractère 
total de l'interprétation néo-platonicienne christianisée (elle touche au contenu, à 
la composition et à la structure des pièces). Trois niveaux de lecture se dégagent 
essentiellement : celui de l'imitation, celui de l'intention didactique, celui de 
l'inspiration. La part de la représentation visuelle de la matière poétique — il faut 
entendre l'importance croissante de Vecphrasis, principalement dans les Hymnes 
de 1556 et ceux des Saisons — offre à la polysémie de plus grandes possibilités, 
comme le souligne Ford dans cette formule dorée : « The urge to expound philo- 
sophical ideas in the 1555 collection is replaced by the desire to show the effects 
of such ideas in the seasonal hymns » (p. 293). 

Ronsard's « Hymns » constitue désormais un passage obligé pour qui veut 
approfondir les Hymnes de Ronsard ou la pensée philosophique du XVP siècle. 
Par une présentation détaillée du contenu, j'ai essayé de rendre sensibles les 
éminentes qualités de cette étude. On se réjouira de la clarté du style (élégant sans 
être inutilement recherché) et par conséquent d'une pensée limpide. Celle-ci est 
nourrie par une grande connaissance des problèmes philosophiques de la Renais- 
sance et de la critique ronsardienne. Une thèse parcourt l'ouvrage et contribue à 
lui donner son unité : le néo-platonisme chrétien. Interprétés par Ford, les grands 
recueils de 1555 et de 1556 sortent grandis et ennoblis. Et le lien triple institué 
entre le texte littéraire, l'iconographie et la théorie néo-platonicienne se révèle 
fécond. Je signale aussi que l'auteur a tout fait pour rendre sensible l'importance 
du « visuel » dans ses propos : vingt-sept excellentes reproductions noir-blanc 
d'œuvres d'art auxquelles il est fait allusion sont placées au centre de l'ouvrage. 

C'est aussi rendre un hommage indispensable à un livre important que de 
l'envisager d'un point de vue critique. J'écris les lignes suivantes d'autant plus 
librement que je partage l'interprétation néo-platonicienne de l'auteur et que je 
suis par conséquent attentif à ce qui, dans tel ou tel cas, pourrait infirmer cette 
pensée unificatrice. Les schémas par inclusion séduisent l'esprit, souvent ajuste 



86 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



titre. Quelques-uns sont étonnants de justesse comme ceux qui sont appliqués aux 
hymnes mythologiques de 1556 (p. 217 et 231). Mais ces modèles supposent 
qu'une pièce soit assez unitaire pour figurer à l'un des pôles du schéma. Est-ce 
toujours le cas ? Si les premiers hymnes de 1555 sont à coup sûr plus « sublu- 
naires », les derniers, c'est-à-dire leurs répondants antagonistes, sont-ils toujours 
majoritairement gouvernés par la matière céleste ? La Justice s'incarne dans la 
personne du cardinal de Lorraine, qui a la charge de faire régner l'équité ici-bas. 
Mais l'Or concerne tout autant nos activités sublunaires. C'est Aristote, et non 
Platon, qui classe l'Or parmi les vertus (v. 215) ; c'est la Terre qui recèle ce métal 
(v. 276 sqq.). S'il est « l'ornement des grands Dieux », il est aussi « le confort de 
l'homme » (v. 320), consolation toute terrestre. Louer l'Or, c'est «jouer / La farce 
des humains » (v. 357-58). La puissance du roi Henri II nous fait espérer « Que 
les biens temporelz long temps demurent seurs » (v. 369). A la fin de l'hymne, 
Ronsard n'oppose pas à l'avare la valeur des biens spirituels, mais lui reproche de 
ne pas user des avantages matériels. Quant à r« Hercule Chrestien », faut-il en 
faire une lecture « syncrétiste », selon laprisca theologia ? Tel n'était pas l'avis 
du regretté Cl. Faisant, qui écrivait il y a une quinzaine d'années : « Pour la 
première fois, Ronsard dénonce la Mythologie comme Idolâtrie. (...) La signifi- 
cation de son fameux parallèle entre Hercule et Jésus est en effet fort claire : loin 
de quêter à travers le mythe herculéen les indices d'une mystérieuse prémonition 
spirituelle du Christ, il dénonce au contraire en lui des marques d'une contrefaçon 
grossière » (« Le sens religieux de V Hercule Chrestien », dans Autour des Hymnes 
de Ronsard, éd. Madeleine Lazard, Paris, Champion, 1984, p. 248 et 250). Mais, 
je l'admets, V« Hercule Chrestien » est un hapax, rédigé probablement avant les 
autres hymnes pour calmer l'inquiétude de Jean de Morel et peut-être de certains 
protestants. Comme Ronsard reviendra au syncrétisme avec conviction, la 
« thèse » de Ford se tient donc parfaitement dans l'ensemble. Simplement, par sa 
soudaine absence de système, par le caractère fantasmatique de sa pensée, par une 
certaine logique du « tiers inclus », un auteur du XVP siècle nous déconcertera 
toujours dans tel aspect de son argumentation. Des éléments non syncrétistes 
traversent l'espace ronsardien et brouillent quelquefois les ondes porteuses du 
message ! J'aimerais que ces parasites soient mieux pris en compte. On souhaite- 
rait que soit établi de façon plus complète (chap. 2) le passage de Proclus à 
Ronsard. J. Lecointe a écrit sur les fondements néo-platoniciens de l'epistémè 
renaissante des pages auxquelles il faudrait renvoyer {L'Idéal et la différence 
[Genève, Droz, 1993]). Comme le temps est long entre le dépôt du manuscrit et la 
sortie du livre, l'auteur n'a pu connaître trois ouvrages qu'il aurait incorporés avec 
plaisir : ceux de P. Galand-Hallyn {Le Reflet des fleurs [Genève, Droz, 1994] et 
Les Yeux de l'éloquence [Orléans, Paradigme, 1995]), qui traitent du maniérisme, 
de Vecphrasis et de Venargeia dans les hypotyposes ; celui dans lequel le regretté 
J. Chomarat nous offre le texte et la traduction des Hymni naturales de Marulle 
(Genève, Droz, 1995) avec de précieux commentaires qui confortent assez gêné- 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 87 



ralement la belle lecture de Ford. Enfin, à propos d'un passage de la p. 22, on me 
permettra cette remarque de philologue ! Ford cite les v. 575-78 de V« Ode à 
Michel de 1' Hospital », où Ronsard parle du second groupe de poètes, ceux qui ont 
suivi les « poètes divins », comme Eumolpe, Musée, Orphée, Homère, etc. : « Par 
un art mélancolique / Trahissoyent avec grand soing / Leurs vers, esloignez bien 
loing / De la saincte ardeur antique. » « Trahissoyent » ne veut pas dire « trans- 
mettaient », comme le traduit l'auteur, mais bien « trahissaient ». Voir FEWXUfi 
151a-b : « Lt. Tradere "ubergeben", dann "verraten", wurde schon friih [au plus 
tard au XIP siècle, d'après les exemples donnés] in der letzen Bedeutung entlehnt. 
Es wurde dem fr. eingepasst und in die konjugation auf -ir eingereiht. » Il faut 
alors comprendre : « Par un trop grand souci de l'art [= technique], ils trahissaient 
ce qui aurait dû être l'inspiration spontanée et divine de leurs vers. » Si elle ne sera 
pas toujours aussi forte, cette sévérité pour l'art rejoint ici les interprétations de 
l'auteur. 

Conforté dans ma vision néo-platonicienne des Hymnes de Ronsard, je dis à 
Ph. Ford ma reconnaissance et mon respect pour son brillant ouvrage. 

ANDRÉ GENDRE, Université de Neuchâtel 



Aby Warburg. The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity: Contributions to the Cultural 
History of the European Renaissance. Trans. David Britt, with an introduction 
by Kurt W. Forster. Los Angeles, CA: Getty Research Institute for the History 
of Art and the Humanities, 1999. Pp. 859. 

The English translation of a substantial part of Aby Warburg's writings is finally 
here, and one might well ask, why Warburg now? Despite the fact that scholars have 
long had access to the original German, as well as to some Italian translations, 
nothing replaces a translation into one's own language, especially in the case of 
Warburg. Notoriously yielding more questions than answers, Warburg's writings 
read like a struggling translation even in the German. As a result, their interpretation 
and adaptation through authoritative but not necessarily sympathetic filters — 
primarily Fritz Saxl, Erwin Panofsky, Ernst Gombrich, and Edgar Wind — has 
proven to be enormously significant for Warburg's Nachleben in the English-speak- 
ing world. The result of this rich history of transmission has been, paradoxically, an 
almost complete detachment from the source. 

Before it was common to do so, Warburg investigated the concerns of patrons 
as well as artists, transformed archive work into microhistory, questioned the 
exclusion of "low" art by what he called art history's "border guards," rebelled 
against aestheticizing art history at the height of the aesthetic movement, and 
studied works of art in the context both of social ritual and of arcane wisdom 
traditions. He joined a passion for detail to a consistent preoccupation with the 



88 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



grand issues of Renaissance art and culture: the persistence and adaptation of 
pagan models in Christian culture, the tension between superstition and rational- 
ism, the impact of the Reformation, the problems of secularization and early 
modernity, and the relevance of the Renaissance in contemporary life. The many 
competencies Warburg developed in his study of Renaissance culture have since 
separated out into somewhat hardened specializations, with the result that 
Warburg's larger picture has tended to recede from view, and with it the sense of 
cultural tension that marked his vision of the period. This is less evident where the 
relation to Warburg has been more direct and active: in Germany Martin Warnke 
and Horst Bredekamp, and in Italy Salvatore Settis and Carlo Ginzburg, to name 
only the most prominent scholars, have applied Warburg's approaches and insights 
to a wide array of Renaissance cultural phenomena. Will this translation spark a 
renewal of interest in Warburg in the English-speaking world, with equally pro- 
ductive results, or is this little more than a historiographical monument? 

The Getty Research Institute's decision to adhere to the original 1932 German 
edition certainly points in the direction of Warburg-as- relic. Although commonly 
known as Gesammelte Schriften, this edition remained only a fragment. The two 
tomes we know and that are translated here consist of those writings by Warburg 
published during his lifetime and constitute only the first volume of a projected 
six-volume series, the other volumes of which were to include the Mnemosyne- 
Atlas, the unpublished works, the fragments of The Theory of Expression, Anthro- 
pologically Considered, the letters, aphorisms, and autobiographical sketches, and 
finally the catalogue of the library. This plan was never fulfilled, but in Germany 
ad hoc publication of Warburg's writings has nonetheless continued apace. When 
the Italian translation of Die Erneuerung der heidnischen Antike appeared in 1966, 
the editors departed from the original German publication, sensibly adding the 
translation of "Der Eintritt des antikisierenden Idealstils in die Malerei der 
Friihrenaissance." Appearing only as an abstract in the German edition (and thus 
here), this piece is one of the fullest and clearest statements of the abiding themes 
of Warburg's work. Conversely, there are several pieces in the 1932 edition that 
are less important than much of the unpublished material. 

The Getty's reluctance to make a new selection from the available material 
was clearly born of a desire to adhere to the structure of the 1932 edition. But that 
would make sense only if the intention were to make good on the plans for the 
original project — that is, to publish the complete works — and yet it is now clear 
that this is the only Warburg translation the Getty intends to put out. The strange- 
ness of the situation is illustrated in the very first page of this volume, where, 
faithful to the 1932 edition, we find the "Plan for the Collected Edition" now listing 
in English the titles of the six projected volumes that we won't see! Philological 
loyalty has produced a wilful repetition of an historical misfortune. 

In defense of this decision, it could be said that the volume assembles, after 
all, all of Warburg's finished writings, published during his lifetime, and thus 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 89 



stands as a fair representation of his work. But the distinction between finished 
and unfinished, published and unpublished, is not so hard and fast in Warburg's 
case. These are for the most part occasional pieces; circumstances dictated that 
these and not other pieces made it to print. And, unlike Panofsky or Gombrich, 
Warburg did not write particularly resolved essays. To different degrees, they are 
elliptical, inconclusive, bristling with unresolved questions, clearest only when 
they are at their most oracular. The teeming appendices to each of the essays, 
moreover, prove that for Warburg these pieces were still "open files," and thus not 
in fact in a different category from the unpublished material, suggesting a conti- 
nuity right down to the fragments and even the aphorisms. Unlike typical decorous 
academic prose, Warburg's essays are often marked, as Kurt Forster notes in his 
Introduction, by the repetition of almost invocatory verbal formulas. It is an 
enormous accomplishment of this translation that it avoids extraneous obfuscation 
even as it refrains from smoothing over the strangeness of Warburg's writing. 

Little wonder that Warburg's preferred mode of elucidation was not the 
magisterial essay but the ongoing "open work" of the assemblage. A primary 
example is the Mnemosy ne- Atlas ^ a series of panels where Warburg assembled 
images, ranging from antiquity to contemporary advertisements, illustrating the 
careers of the antique motifs he called "pathos formulas" and the themes that 
carried them. He called it "a ghost story for the fully grown-up." Another instance 
is, of course, the library itself, a fact implicitly acknowledged in the plan to publish 
the catalogue of the library as the sixth and last volume of the original German 
edition. Contemporary accounts record how Warburg was constantly changing the 
order of the books in his efforts to remain faithful to what he called the principle 
of the "good neighbor." Any visitor to the library can attest to the uniqueness and 
extraordinary effectiveness of the result, perhaps most forcefully described by 
Ernst Cassirer upon recalling his first visit to the library in 1920: "That uninter- 
rupted chain of books seemed suffused by the breath of a magician that hovered 
above it like a prodigious law." 

Clearly, bringing a scholar such as Warburg into published form is not an 
editorial enterprise for the weak of stomach. As Kurt Forster notes in his Introduc- 
tion, Fritz Saxl intended to publish the Mnemosyne-Atlas with a commentary 
supplied by a selection of Warburg's unpublished fragments "pieced together like 
a mosaic." The field of literary studies has certainly not hesitated to meet the 
analogous challenge presented by the work of Walter Benjamin, whose unwieldy 
and unfinished Arcades Project has just appeared in English, despite the fact that 
Benjamin himself professed shortly before his death that although he had amassed 
thousands of pages not a single syllable of it had yet been written. 

Warburg's main concern was the dialectic between the unmediated demonic 
influences of paganism and the reflective distance C'Denkraum") of rational 
thought made possible through what he called symbolic thinking. Although several 
statements reflect a belief in a historical process of secularization or sublimation. 



90 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



much of Warburg's work, as Michael Steinberg has observed, stresses the alterna- 
tion between the two born of a "kinship of Athens and Oraibi." Warburg described 
it as a "perpetual turning from concretion to abstraction and back again," a 
Nietzschean contention between the Apollonian and Dionysian, and, in more 
unguarded moments, a form of schizophrenia. Warburg's importance lies in seeing 
that this problem was one that especially implicated images and their use. Because 
the "primitive" activity is by definition non-verbal, and because images continue 
to live long after their use in ritual, images and their afterlife became Warburg's 
primary preoccupation. Warburg was thus not an art historian attempting to build 
interdisciplinary bridges, but a cultural historian who, having read Lessing at an 
impressionable age, believed that the history of art was the best way into some of 
the central problems of Western civilization. 

In contrast to the interest in subject matter that reigned supreme in the wake 
of Panofsky, Warburg was interested above all in the transmission of "pathos 
formulas." As Salvatore Settis has shown, Warburg's term contains an inherent 
tension, since "pathos" is traditionally associated with expressive impetus and 
movement, and "formula" with convention and classification. For Warburg, the 
formula allowed the original expressive element to travel and survive; it con- 
scripted the transitory expression into the workings of historical memory. This led 
to a very dynamic way of viewing images. When Warburg saw a figure enveloped 
in fluttering drapery enter a Renaissance picture — in Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, or 
a popular print — he saw an irruption of a pagan life force in late medieval culture. 
This encounter was, in his view, a central problem of Renaissance art: it brought 
an age-old battle newly to a head, causing "an entirely new cultural persona to 
emerge." Thus, in contrast to the assured masterpieces presented in traditional 
studies of Renaissance art, Warburg introduces us to unstable compounds, fields 
of contentious forces. The models of classical stability still widely taken to 
symbolize Renaissance art become, upon reading Warburg, the exception rather 
than the rule, and take on a stranger appearance as fragile moments of sublimation. 
Such a view in turn provokes dramatic re-evaluations of the larger story that 
Warburg never told. The High Renaissance, for example, starts to look like a 
short-lived reaction, an archaizing effort to control and stabilize the pathos formu- 
las that had held the Quattrocento artists in their grip, and this in turn makes it 
easier to understand why it so quickly devolved into the strange experiments of 
the art of the 1 520s and after. 

Warburg's anthropology was elementary, his conception of the Middle Ages 
Procrustean, and his concerns in the end monomaniacal. And yet he offers import- 
ant, even urgent, lessons in the present academic climate, perhaps explaining why 
there are signs of a revival similar to that which Burckhardt has enjoyed in recent 
years. The emphasis on the "long Middle Ages" that has marked art-historical 
scholarship in the last two decades has given way to new appraisals of the cultural 
conflicts of early modernity, making Warburg a newly compelling read. In the 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 91 



wake of the high-brow contextualism of classic iconography and the social-histor- 
ical contextualism that succeeded it, art history has also recently found a non-for- 
malist road back to images, and thus can rejoin Warburg's company. We now see 
inquiries into the specifically visual modalities that shape religious experience, 
form social bonds, structure epistemological models, and inform processes of 
self-fashioning, as well as modes of cultural reception and construction. 

Warburg's work emerges specifically as a precursor — and a caveat — amidst 
the recent interest in the power of images, a trend that has focused new attention 
on the roles of images in pre-modern and non- Western societies as alternative 
models to the "distanced" approaches to art that, since the Renaissance, have found 
their home in the modern museum and art history classroom. Warburg's resistance 
to art-historical aestheticism and his interest in the ritual functions of images make 
him relevant to these concerns, but in many ways he teaches a different lesson. Far 
from embracing the rituals of the Pueblo Indians as a welcome alternative to an 
alienated modern Western civilization — in the manner of Margaret Mead and her 
many followers — Warburg studied them as a living example of a pagan sensibility 
that caused particularly strong disruptions, and efforts of integration, during the 
Renaissance, and that remained close to the surface down to his own day. When 
in Rome shortly before his death in 1929, he witnessed the Fascist celebrations for 
the concordat between Mussolini and the Pope and noted that he considered 
himself lucky to be able to observe at first hand "the repaganization of Rome.'* 
One can only imagine what he would have made of a late twentieth-century 
enthusiasm for "unmediated" engagements with images on the part of academics 
discontented with academic sophistication. He was too close to the power of 
images to be nostalgic about it, and too sensitive to the tensions within Renaissance 
culture to see it as the foundation for the comfortable triumph of rationalism. 
Warburg saw instead an unfolding and volatile process in which the spell of images 
is continually countered by efforts to neutralize them, to effect what he called 
"aesthetic detoxification" {aesthetische Entgiftung). Such an approach compli- 
cates the story considerably, and continually implicates the scholar as one of its 
primary players. 

ALEXANDER NAGEL, University of Toronto 



L'Ermetismo nelV Antichita e nel Rinascimento. Istituto di Studi Umanistici F. 
Petrarca — Mentis Itinerarium, a cura di Luisa Rotondi Secchi Tarugi. Milan, 
Nuovi Orizzonti, 1998. P. 240. 

Fondé en 1988 avec l'objectif de promouvoir l'étude des différents aspects de 
l'humanisme de la Renaissance, le Centra di Studi Umanistici E Petrarca organise 
chaque année, avec la participation de spécialistes italiens ou étrangers, une série 



92 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



de cours-conférences donnés à Milan, ainsi qu'un congrès international qui se tient 
habituellement à Chianciano-Pienza. Chacune de ces activités est structurée autour 
d'un thème particulier et aboutit à une publication regroupant les différentes 
communications auxquelles elle a donné lieu. La recension que l'on trouvera ici 
concerne la douzième et dernière en date (juin 1998) de ces publications, qui est 
aussi la huitième dans la collection Caleidoscopio de la maison Nuovi Orizzonti. 

1) Stefano Benassi : « Apuleio, o la magia del romanzo » (p. 7-30) 
L'auteur fait ressortir les différentes oppositions, contrastes ou dualités qui s'entre- 
croisent dans les Métamorphoses, mettant ainsi à nu la trame « hermétique » du 
roman d'Apulée, qui renvoie au mythe Isis-Osiris. Ce mythe se révèle progressive- 
ment jusqu'à son explicitation au Livre 11, où VAne d'or symbolise la matérialité 
de Seth, simple reflet de Horus, lumière authentique. 

2) Emilio Bigî : « Una canzone "ermetica" del Petrarca (Rime CV) » (p. 

31-42) 

Soulignant lui-même le paradoxe oxymorique de son poème comme « révélation 
obscure » — qualcuno puo non capire a che cosa alludo; ma io so bene di che cosa 
parlo — Pétrarque s'inscrit consciemment dans un des aspects les plus constants 
de la tradition hermétique. Donnant un survol des interprétations qui en ont été 
tentées, l'auteur expose celles qui lui paraissent les plus fondamentales : selon 
l'une, Pétrarque aurait voulu exprimer la sublimation de son amour pour Laure, qui, 
désormais, ne l'empêcherait plus de « tendre vers les cieux » ; selon l'autre, le poète 
aurait exprimé sa résolution définitive de se détourner de l' amour qu'il a pu ressentir 
pour la jeune femme. 

3) Carlo Gentili : « Il proemio di Parmenide: un confronto tra poesia e 
fîlosofîa sul tema deU'ermetismo » (p. 43--60) 

En cette étude remarquablement structurée, l'auteur aborde de façon neuve l'anti- 
que controverse concernant le paradoxe du poème de Parmenide, y retrouvant, 
transposées en philosophie, les caractéristiques essentielles du langage « herméti- 
que » : la révélation de la Vérité ne s'obtient qu'après une longue ascèse ; le 
philosophe, comme instrument de la Vérité, a l'obligation de la dire, car elle a portée 
universelle et vaut pour tous les hommes ; cependant, et si donc elle est en principe 
accessible à tous, elle ne peut être reçue en sa pureté que par le petit nombre 
d'« initiés ». Surpassant tout langage humain, elle est nécessairement obscure et ne 
peut donc être communiquée qu'à travers l'ambiguïté d'un langage particulier, 
poétique et métaphorique. C'est encore par cet appel à l'hermétisme ésotérique qu'il 
est sans doute possible de comprendre l'opposition entre les deux parties du poème : 
la « voie de la vérité » est ésotérique, la « voie de l'opinion » est exotérique. 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 93 



4) Paolo Lucentini : « Il corpo e l'anima nella tradizione ermetica 
médiévale » (p. 61-72) 

Contrairement au dualisme gnostique ou platonicien, l'anthropologie de VAsclepius 
valorise le corps, comme instrument et domicile de l'âme en ce monde. La recon- 
naissance et l'assimilation progressives du corpus hermétique tout au long du 
moyen âge auront une influence déterminante sur la perspective chrétienne. Celle-ci 
abandonnera progressivement la conception platonicienne du corps comme «pri- 
son» de l'âme, pour adopter celle, beaucoup plus positive et optimiste, qui fait du 
corps l'instrument de l'âme. L'auteur suit les différentes étapes de ce processus à 
travers les conceptions de Bernard Sylvestre et d'Albert le Grand, pour aboutir à 
celle de Bradwardine, où le corps devient le « lieu naturel » de l'âme. 

5) Giuseppe Mazzocchi : « Mistica ed esperienze iniziatiche » (p. 73-88) 

Spécialiste de la mystique espagnole, l'auteur brosse un tableau détaillé, précis et 
fort convaincant des différences par lesquelles se distinguent expérience mystique 
et voies initiatiques, tant sur le plan cognitif que sur celui de l'expression : con- 
trairement à r« initié », le mystique, quant à l'essentiel, ne s'attend pas à quelque 
révélation transcendante qui viendrait s'ajouter à la doctrine théologique reçue ; il 
veut communiquer son expérience au plus grand nombre, et non pas la réserver tel 
un secret qui ne se transmettrait qu'à un petit groupe d'initiés ; cette communication 
se fait par l'écrit, beaucoup plus que par la parole, mais vu le gouffre qui sépare 
l'expérience vécue par le mystique de l'expérience humaine commune, elle fait 
appel à un langage extrêmement recherché, où entrent enjeu analogies, métaphores, 
figures rhétoriques (1' oxymoron en particulier). Enfin, la mystique ne tend pas à 
abolir la distance entre l'homme et Dieu, mais au contraire à souligner la distance 
infinie qui les sépare. 

6) Luisa Secchi Tarugi : « Aspetti ermetici di alcune raffigurazioni 
dell'amor sacro e dell'amor profano nel Rinascimento » (p. 89-111) 

Passant en revue les oeuvres les plus représentatives du Titien, de Garofalo et, tout 
particulièrement, de Veronese, ainsi que les gravures d'Achille Bocchi et de Mar- 
cantonio Raimondi, c'est avec grande clarté et beaucoup de subtilité, tant dans la 
perception que dans l'expression, que l'auteur analyse et dévoile les symbolismes 
qui à la fois unissent et distinguent !'« amour sacré » et r« amour profane » dans 
la peinture et la gravure rinascimentale en Italie. 

Les symboles ainsi dégagés sont mis en relation réciproque, et reconduits 
comme à leur source aux conceptions philosophiques sous-jacentes, celles de Ficin 
et de Jean Pic, ainsi que, plus directement, celle que Valla expose dans son De 
voluptate. On peut encore noter que dans le cadre de cette étude, le vocable 
« hermétisme ésotérique » perd le sens d'« accès au mystère » pour signifier celui 
de connaissance réservée à ceux dont la culture humaniste englobe la symbolique 



94 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



des mythes classiques. Il s'agit donc d'un hermétisme culturel plutôt que d'un 
hermétisme religieux. 

Onze excellentes reproductions de peintures et de gravures illustrent cet essai. 

7) Lionello Sozzi : « "Nexus Caritatis" : L'Ermetismo in Francia nel 
Cinquecento » (p. 113-26) 

L'auteur suit la diffusion en France du Corpus hermeticum, dans les traductions ou 
éditions données par Lefêvre d'Etaples, Symphorien Champier, François de Foix 
de Candale et Gabriel Du Préau. Les interprétations données au Corpus vont se 
développer selon deux directions, soit celle illustrée par Maurice Scève, qui, situant 
Dieu au-delà de l'être, voit en lui la transcendance absolue, impensable et ineffable, 
à laquelle l'homme ne peut jamais atteindre, encore moins s'identifier ; et celle qui 
sera exemplifiée par Ronsard et Du Monin, où Dieu apparaît comme diffusivum sui. 
Ce sera cette conception qui permettra à Marguerite de Navarre de tisser les 
développements analogiques de la ressemblance entre l'homme et Dieu. 

8) Cesare Vasolî : « L'ermetîsmo a Venezîa, da Francesco Giorgio 
Veneto ad Agostino Steuco » (p. 127-62) 

L'auteur se propose d'étudier de façon précise et circonstanciée la diffusion, au sein 
des milieux intellectuels de la Venise du XVP siècle, du double mythe de Vaegyptia 
sapientia et de la revelatio hermetica, en s' attachant particulièrement aux oeuvres 
des trois auteurs représentatifs que sont Francesco Giorgio Veneto, Giulio Camillo 
Delminio et Agostino Steuco. L'auteur signale à différentes reprises l' influence qu'a 
exercée, dans cette pénétration, la réception préalable de la doctrine ficinienne de 
la prisca theologia et du cabalisme de Jean Pic. 

En une intention commune, mais chacun à sa manière, ces auteurs tentent de 
surpasser les divisions théologiques de leur temps par un appel explicite à la 
tradition ésotérique, en laquelle ils croient retrouver l'authentique philosophia 
perennis, qui devrait trouver son achèvement et son couronnement dans l'ensei- 
gnement évangélique. C'est donc dans une intention parfaitement orthodoxe que 
Steuco, par exemple, écrit son De perenni philosophia. L'auteur souligne cepen- 
dant qu'en un retournement ironique et malgré cette intention d'orthodoxie indu- 
bitablement sincère, ces écrits se transformeront par la suite en source 
d'inspiration pour ceux qui tenteront de réduire le christianisme à une expérience 
sapientielle commune au genre humain. 

9) Morena di Santé (p. 164-222) donne la traduction italienne d'un anonyme 
du XVI^ siècle intitulé La génération et opération du Grand oeuvre pour 
faire de l'or. Comme le dit l'auteur, ce texte n'est qu'une compilation 
synthétique et souvent confuse de notions d'alchimie bien connues et n'est 
donc guère original, mais le manuscrit est illustré d'une série de 21 minia- 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 95 



tures d'excellente facture, qui font tout le prix de ce document étonnant. Ces 
illustrations sont ici rendues avec toute la précision et la finesse désirables. 

Notons encore que, par sa présentation, par l'excellence de sa typographie et 
la qualité remarquable des nombreuses reproductions qui l'illustrent, la maison 
Nuovi Orizzonti a produit un ouvrage dont la manipulation est aussi agréable que 
la lecture en est aisée. 

On regrettera cependant qu'aucune notice ne présente les auteurs qui ont 
contribué à sa réalisation, et que la seule bibliographie, d'ailleurs rudimentaire, 
qui accompagne une des contributions contient quelques erreurs, la rendant peu 
fiable. 

LOUIS VALCKE, Université de Sherbrooke 



Robert Williams. Art, Theory, and Culture in Sixteenth-Century Italy: From 
Techne to Metatechne. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Pp. 243. 

This compact, lucid book about the role of art theory in the later Italian Renaissance 
argues that in the sixteenth century art became "essentially theoretical" and is thus 
concerned as much with the invisible as with the visible. The book deals with Vasari, 
Varchi, Borghini, Gilio, Lomazzo, Zuccaro, Tasso, Bocchi, and other theorists, who 
claimed in various formulations that art creates culture, or at least a new idea of 
culture. It raises a number of arresting questions about form, disegno, and decorum, 
and about the coercive powers of art and representation — their producing, and then 
their constituting, an age's reality. Above all, it explores the idea that art exercises 
a "superintendency" over knowledge, is "a form of knowledge or mode of knowing 
that necessarily involves a mastery of other modes," and is potentially, even ideally, 
"a mastery of all modes." Williams' at times Neoplatonic, at times neo-Kantian, 
thesis, which dwells on the central considerations attending signification, asserts 
that this theoretical redefinition of art is itself "the distinctive achievement" of the 
Renaissance. It explores the complexity of the transaction occurring in the viewer, 
who subordinates his subjective perceptions to a belief in the power of an intelligible 
order of an art transcending his eye, even his mind's eye. For these theorists indeed, 
the artist is transformed from being a master technician into someone with "a special 
kind of insight into things," who strives to create "a reflection of his entire mode 
of being in the world." This orients us, predictably, towards a Michelangelesque 
notion of art as "the process of self-perfection," "a prolonged process of 
becoming," "a spiritual pilgrimage," "a search for valid signs," "a search for the 
ground of being," for "transcendence" itself. As the "art of arts," it is the 
fundamental faculty of the mind which judges and then correlates all things 
perceived, designing our realities. 



96 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Hence the centrality for Williams of Vasari and disegno, the topic of his 
opening chapter. In the second edition of his Lives, Vasari had defined disegno in 
Aristotelian terms, as that which "derives from many things a universal judgment" 
and comprehends the law, form or idea of all of nature, that is, the relationship of 
nature's parts to the unified whole. Along with the cognate notion of maniera^ 
which strives "for that beauty which comes from having frequently copied the most 
beautiful things," disegno signifies, in other words, an ideal envisioning: a collec- 
tive judging of analogies, which governs the practical functioning aspects of the 
artist's mind, but also its "loftiest understanding." It constitutes "the most funda- 
mental, most profound, rule of art," in that it supposes and creates a formal, and 
thus an aesthetic, reality. 

Chapter Two argues that the period's notion of style is "fundamentally a 
problem of identity" conceived in an "idealized and objective way," whereas 
decorum is the principle that regulates the relation of style to matter and audience 
and therefore "the superintendency of style." Insofar as style rationalizes the 
diversity of the modes of representation and subjects them "to a potential unity" 
reflecting the world's order, it regulates the relation of art to the world beyond art, 
presenting the objective in the subjective terms of decorum. Here Williams turns 
to a probing discussion of the "virtues" that certain paintings, Michelangelo's Last 
Judgment, for instance, are said to possess: strength, purity, and so on. Such 
paintings discover what Cennini calls "things unseen" — the abstract characters 
and ideals, not just the affective valencies, of their subjects. Or, rather, given their 
participation in the whole cultural system of presentation and representation, they 
discover conceptions and definitions. 

The third chapter deals with Lomazzo, Zuccaro, and Tasso's dialogue // 
FicinOy and particularly with Zuccaro' s understanding of disegno interno as "an 
epistemological principle," as the power — and not a just a power — of the mind 
which generates all other rational activity, including our ability to define it as a 
power. Given these self-reflective premises, one might question Williams' claim 
in his introduction that "the lingering power of idealism" reflects a consciousness 
of the fact that "signification is not a natural process but both an arbitrary and a 
transcendent — a culturally constructed — one." The Neoplatonic grounds of this 
argument would seem to undermine the distinction here between "natural" and 
"transcendent," in that the natural participates, however imperfectly, in the tran- 
scendent construction (which neither Zuccaro nor his fellow theorists interpreted 
as culturally determined). Even so, this chapter clearly sets out the intricate faculty 
psychology, especially of the concetto, which undergirds these intricate specula- 
tions. This is important precisely because of the theorists' assumption that art 
encounters and represents ideas and is itself an idea — that it is an object of 
knowledge and yet the ground of epistemology. 

The last chapter turns to Francesco Bocchi's youthful but sophisticated essays 
on the visual arts, which synthesize Aristotelian and Platonic arguments. Bocchi 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 97 



emphasizes the role of the viewer, whose experience of a picture "is always 
intended to be one of immediate apprehension of the ideal in the real, or of the 
universal in the particular" (a response that Williams sees as a variety of Platonic 
noesis). The viewer is "possessed by the absolute" and thus "reconstituted" before 
being moved to action. Bocchi's reception theory thus nicely complements 
Lomazzo's and Zuccaro's concern with the originating artist's possession and 
reconstitution. 

The book's subtitle eventually comes sharply into focus. Art ceases in the 
sixteenth century to be just "a well-defined technique or set of techniques," 
emerging instead as the technique of techniques, the master art, the form of 
form-making, metatechne. Correlatively, subjectivity becomes "essentially a the- 
oretical subjectivity," since lived experience is now perceived primarily in its 
relationship to the ideal. Art as an idealizing play of signifiers becomes the way 
in which the humanists define both common humanity and individual identity, 
preeminently because they have come to see "all meaning, all knowledge, all 
identity" as the products of art. 

This is a well written, well conceived, provocative study and will fascinate 
those interested in Renaissance thought, and in the art in, and of, that thought. 

MICHAEL J. B . ALLEN, UCLA 



Sources et fontaines du Moyen Age à l'âge baroque. Actes du colloque tenu à 
l'Université Paul Valéry, MontpelHer III, les 28, 29 et 30 novembre 1996. Ed. 
l'Equipe d'acceuil Moyen âge-Renaissance-Baroque. Paris, Champion, 1998. 
P. 493. 

Ces journées d'étude ont permis de mettre en commun les recherches et les 
réflexions de 24 communicants, des universités françaises, suisses et allemande et 
d'un conservateur du musée du Louvre, sur un objet polymorphe et complexe, les 
sources et les fontaines. La double dénomination s'expliquait à la fois par les 
variations lexicales importantes du Moyen Âge à l'époque baroque et par le souci 
d'inclure explicitement les deux formes de surgissement de l'élément aqueux, 
naturel et artificiel. L'édition a distingué trois grands chapitres chronologiques : le 
Moyen Age (huit communications portant sur des œuvres littéraires des XII-XIV® 
siècles). Renaissance (neuf études portant sur le seul XVP siècle mais faisant place 
tant aux fontaines construites qu'aux sources du monde réel nouvellement exploré, 
ou aux thèmes et figures littéraires liés aux fontaines), et Âge baroque (sept essais 
concernant le XVIP siècle et traitant de la présence du motif dans les jardins réels, 
dans les divers genres littéraires — éloquence religieuse, poésie pétrarquisante, 
roman courtisan ou galant — dans la pastorale et la musique et dans la mise en scène 
d' opéras). Mais si le corpus des objets et des textes se situait entre le XIP et le XVII® 



98 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



siècle, les références, les modèles et les « sources » des auteurs analysés nous 
renvoyaient fréquemment à Antiquité, classique (figures héroïques comme celle 
d'Alexandre le Grand, divinités du paganisme dont les omniprésentes et insaisissa- 
bles Nymphes des sources, géographie de Pausanias ou de Strabon confrontée aux 
nouvelles découvertes, philosophie néoplatonicienne d'Apulée, optique d' Aristote, 
connaissances hydrauliques d' Archimède ou de Héron d'Alexandrie), ou chrétienne 
(Livre des Rois et faute de David, métaphores du Cantique des cantiques, exégèse 
patristique de la notion de grâce comme fontaine pérenne). L'épine dorsale de cette 
rencontre s'est avérée être la confrontation de divers discours concernant cet objet : 
d'une part, les savoirs portant sur l'eau, sa nature et ses propriétés, sa maîtrise et 
les savoir-faire requis pour en faire bénéficier l'individu et la collectivité ; d'autre 
part, la floraison de mythes, de schemes mentaux, la chaîne des connotations et 
associations mentales, le nexus de désirs et d'aspirations, d'angoisses et de tabous, 
de rêveries et d'illusions, que cette eau des sources et des fontaines a pu susciter 
durant un demi-millénaire dans la culture européenne. L'eau pure et potable, salubre 
et rafraîchissante, est un enjeu vital pour le corps et l'esprit, pour l'agriculture 
comme pour l'hygiène urbaine. Nulle surprise donc à la voir apparaître comme objet 
de convergence, en son lieu de surgissement ou de recueil, de l'esprit scientifique, 
de ses errances inchoatives à sa maturité expérimentale officiellement sanctionnée 
par son organisation au sein de l'Académie royale des sciences, convoquant les 
savoirs géologique et géographique, météorologique et hydrographique pour en 
comprendre les cheminements obscurs ; physique et chimique pour en analyser les 
propriétés et les vertus thérapeutiques ; céramique et métallurgique pour la capter 
et la conduire en des tuyaux ; mécanique pour l'élever et la stocker ; et, par ailleurs, 
de l'esprit poétique, de l'imagination littéraire et figurative qui la célèbre, l'exalte, 
l'insère dans les récits et les fictions, dans les représentations figurées, la magnifie 
par des monuments luxueux ou plaisants, des jeux inventifs et une orchestration 
réglée comme par magie. 

Toutes ces fontaines sont perçues à travers des mots, même en présence des 
rares vestiges de fontaines réelles ou de sites préservés : ce sont les versets des 
Psaumes de David dans les livres d'heures qui commentent les enluminures de 
Bethsabée se baignant dans une fontaine sarcophage ou cruciforme ; ce sont les 
documents d'archives qui suppléent et éclairent les commandes royales et seigneu- 
riales de fontaines dans la France de la première moitié du XV^ siècle, les 
descriptions de Versailles par André Félibien, Piganiol de la Force, La Fontaine 
ou François Charpentier qui, à côté de quelques estampes, ressuscitent pour nous 
le pittoresque et l'ingéniosité de la grotte de Thétis dans le premier état du château. 

Ces discours étonnent par leur diversité : écrits techniques d'architectes et de 
théoriciens des jardins de Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie (1638) à Charles 
Daviler (1691) ; écrits pédagogiques comme les livres de clergie, encyclopédies 
médiévales compilées par des religieux à usage des laïcs ignorants et leurs 
catalogues de fontaines merveilleuses ; comptes-rendus d'expéditions aux souve- 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 99 



rains pontifes de la Renaissance (de Pierre Martyr à Adrien VI), sur les contrées 
explorées dans les Nouvelles Indes, leurs fontaines de jouvence et leurs amazones 
dont tous les indigènes attestent l'existence mais que l'on n'atteint jamais ; guides 
de théologie et de spiritualité, comme les écrits des démonologues du XVP siècle 
(Jean Bodin, 1580 ; Pierre de Lancre, 1613) qui apprennent à se méfier de ces lieux 
séducteurs et ambigus que sont les fontaines, qui pourraient se prêter à divers rites, 
invocations, pratiques divinatoires ; ou les commentaires métaphoriques de Pierre 
de Bérulle (1625) sur la Madeleine comme fontaine lacrymale, répondant par son 
repentir à la fontaine de grâce du Christ ; poésie évocatrice des lieux et des poètes 
disparus qui les avait chantés, comme Georges de Scudéry (1649) qui célèbre en 
un même tombeau poétique les eaux abyssales de la Fontaine de Vaucluse et 
l'ombre de Pétrarque et de Laure ; ekphrasis ou programme iconographique de 
Pontus de Tyard pour les douze fables de fleuves et de fontaines à peindre dans le 
château de Diane de Poitiers à Anet (vers 1556) ; poésie scientifique de Du Bartas 
{La Sepmaine, 1578) qui célèbre les formes et propriétés de l'eau dans l'univers 
ou prose de Cyrano de Bergerac qui transpose ces merveilles dans les royaumes 
de l'utopie (1662). Les fontaines de la littérature chevaleresque médiévale appa- 
raissent comme des lieux d'épreuves, soit par leurs charmes de locus amoenus et 
la présence de femmes séductrices, femmes à délivrer ou fées, soit par les affron- 
tements, les pièges et les ruses, les blessures et les errements qu'elles occasionnent. 
Dans ces textes de statuts et de finalités si divers, les sources et les fontaines 
interviennent également à des titres très variables : elles sont le réfèrent, l'objet 
de la description ; ou possèdent un rôle diégétique, déclenchant l'événement, 
cristallisant les passions ; ou, du moins, elles peuvent servir de cadre aux vertus 
symboliques, susciter un climat de repos, de plaisir, de galanterie. Données pour 
féminines, soit de par leur nature froide et humide, soit parce qu'elles sont hantées 
par les nymphes ou par les fées, associées à l'idée de pureté et de virginité, ou de 
sensualité et de fécondité, les deux notions pouvant même étrangement se combi- 
ner et interférer de façon ambiguë dans les mythes de Narcisse et Écho, Salmacis 
et Hermaphrodite, ou dans les variantes des amours des nymphes et des mortels 
qu'imagine Boccace dans son Ninfale fiesolano (1346), les sources et les fontaines 
représentent un lieu périlleux pour l'homme, lieu de passage et d'initiation, qui 
peut le mener à l'échec ou à la gloire, à la mort ou au salut. Toute une galerie de 
types masculins les abordent : les chevaliers, chastes ou impurs, les conquistadors 
de l'Orient (Alexandre et les trois fontaines de résurrection, d'immortalité et de 
jouvence, dont aucune n'empêchera sa mort prématurée) ou de l'Amérique (Orel- 
lana, Colomb), le clerc vulgarisateur, le poète soucieux de perpétuer les topoi 
classiques, l'ingénieur passionné comme Bernard Palissy qui les dissèque pour 
mieux les contrefaire par ses « rustiques figulines », les dynasties de fontainiers, 
tels les Francine, qui font surgir des panaches et des gerbes, des « pissures » 
secrètes et des filets bruissants, depuis les grottes à automates hydrauliques de 
Saint-Germain-en-Laye sous Henri IV jusqu'aux majestueuses ordonnances li- 



100 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



quides à l'air libre de Versailles sous Louis XIV, faites pour être montrées selon 
certaines perspectives, selon les consignes transmises par Colbert. 

L'eau des fontaines et des sources est ainsi abordée sous l'angle de l'utilité 
pour le corps et pour la cité, à travers le rôle technique des fontainiers municipaux 
à Rouen, à Tours (les Valence) ou à Besançon et le rôle politique des édiles et des 
seigneurs, leur évergétisme intéressé, puisque, s'ils sont les dispensateurs de l'eau, 
ils en sont les premiers bénéficiaires. Elle est évoquée dans ses liens avec l'amour 
et la transgression, le plaisir de son contact et la fin tragique de certains de ses 
héros par noyade (on notera les divergences d'interprétation du mythe de Narcisse 
dans le Roman de la Rose, chez Jean Lemaire de Belges ou chez Pontus de Tyard), 
dans le regard espion de la beauté dévoilée au cours de sa toilette, Diane ou 
Bethsabée. Miroir trouble et troublant, sombre et mouvant, naturel mais facteur 
d'illusion, seuil impalpable entre le réel et l'au-delà, la fontaine est aussi le lieu 
de la réflexion à tous les sens du terme et plusieurs auteurs rappellent qu'en hébreu 
un même mot désigne l'œil et la source. Elle mène donc au regard retourné, à 
l'introspection et c'est ainsi qu'elle peut être l'instrument du salut de l'âme. De la 
fontaine du paradis d'oii s'écoulent les quatre fleuves que les navigateurs de la 
Renaissance s'efforçaient encore d'identifier lors de leurs pérégrinations, à l'eau 
des fonts baptismaux ou des bénitiers que les démonologues opposent aux mares 
croupies des sorciers, eau pure et jaillissante est au coeur de la symbolique 
chrétienne et Apollon amoureux de la nymphe Castalie peut être comparé à 
r Esprit-Saint envoyant ses rayons de lumière dans le sein de la Vierge Marie dans 
un Hymne ecclésiastique de Guy Le Fèvre de la Boderie (1578). Pour Bernard 
Palissy {Discours admirables, 1580) comme pour le Père François jésuite, dans 
son Art des fontaines (2® éd., 1665), Dieu est le Grand Fontainier de l'Univers, 
ménageant et les réservoirs et les circulations de l'eau et cette universelle, mysté- 
rieuse et généreuse distribution témoigne de Sa Bonté, Sagesse et Toute-Puissance. 
Mais si c'est auprès d'une fontaine, sous le regard chaste de la fille de l'empere- 
reur, que Robert le Diable se voit confier ses missions guerrières rédemptrices 
contre les Sarrasins par un ange cavalier, l'eau des fontaines est plus souvent 
deceptive que régénératrice. Elle engloutit les assoiffés de beauté qui y perdent la 
notion de leur individualité, elle cause la mort de Philibert de Savoie par sa 
fraîcheur excessive, pour Jean Lemaire de Belges. À ces pouvoirs inquiétants, 
l'époque moderne a choisi de répondre en lui empruntant ses propres armes : les 
sortilèges de l'eau sont domestiqués et sa force motrice domptée sert à mettre en 
action des orgues hydrauliques, des oiseaux siffleurs faits de coquillages, voire à 
imiter, selon le caprice de Louis XIV, le dos laineux des moutons ; la farce (les 
visiteurs des grottes subitement trempés) et surtout l'esthétisation conjurent ses 
dangers. La même époque voit la recherche des équivalents et des substituts de 
l'eau, dans les procédés imitatifs de la musique baroque qui suggèrent son bruis- 
sement cristallin par le son des flûtes, les lamenti ou les fontaines lacrymales et 
une quantité de procédés d'écriture égrenant ou précipitant les sons de façon 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 101 



irrégulière ; ou dans les spectacles pyrotechniques, car les metteurs en scène 
contemporains de l'opéra baroque ne font que suivre la tradition du XVIIP siècle 
en remplaçant les évocations liquides par des effets lumineux : les frères Ruggieri 
furent leurs précurseurs à Versailles ou à Paris. 

Aussi est-il significatif qu'au terme du parcours de ces communications aussi 
diverses que les images d'un kaléidoscope, éclats de signification aussi scintillants 
que les particules d'une eau vive, on retrouve l'ambivalence de ces fontaines, qui 
ne furent que ce que le regard y a cherché, dans une évolution dialectique qui est 
celle de la civilisation, s'arrachant à la pensée magique, à la crainte des fées et des 
sorciers, pour mieux la retrouver sous forme de jeu nostalgique, sur la scène des 
jardins et celle des opéras : le grand art du fontainier, de l'architecte, du sculpteur, 
du jardinier ou du metteur en scène est de dissimuler l'appareil technologique 
derrière les figures de tritons, de néréides et de sirènes des pièces d'eau de 
Versailles, la tôle de plomb demeurant invisible sous l'éclat de l'or et le prisme 
des gouttelettes. L'exaltation monarchique recourt au langage symbolique de la 
maîtrise magique des eaux, obéissant à la baguette, lorsque les souverains veulent 
éblouir leurs hôtes de marque : « Figurez-vous qu'il les fassent entrer dans un 
jardin dont les eaux ne paraissent pas d'abord, ne leur sera-ce pas un régal 
surprenant que ce grand théâtre change de face tout d'un coup et s'anime à leur 
arrivée ? Ne leur sera-ce pas une satisfaction très sensible de penser que tant de 
machines se remuent pour l'amour d'eux et qu'elles cessent dès qu'ils déclarent 
les avoir assez vues ? », raisonne un des interlocuteurs du Voyage du Valon 
tranquile de F. Charpentier, en 1673. Lieu du plaisir amoureux humain ou mysti- 
que, des épreuves initiatiques, des prodiges (îles mouvantes britanniques ou 
fontaine des tempêtes), du repos bucolique (pastorales de Lully), aristocratique 
(chez M"^^ de Villedieu) ou mythologique (grottes humides oii La Fontaine fait se 
retrouver Psyché et Cupidon), la fontaine est toujours une richesse convoitée, dont 
la possession et la généreuse dispensation expriment le pouvoir, politique ou divin. 
Une fois de plus l'audace des organisateurs d'avoir tenté l'ouverture sur la longue 
durée et l'interdisciplinarité aura valu au lecteur un recueil très dense et très 
suggestif, conciliant érudition et réflexions de portée très ample. 

MARTINE VASSELIN, Université de Provence 



Catharine Randall. Building Codes: The Aesthetics of Calvinism in Early Mod- 
ern Europe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999. Pp. xii, 288. 

From the mid-sixteenth to the early seventeenth century, the Wars of Religion 
divided France, and the Catholic majority marginalized the Calvinist minority. 
While some Huguenots fled France to seek avenues of self-expression elsewhere, 
many others remained. In the face of overt hostility and legal disability, this 



102 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



tenacious minority not only survived but also found new avenues of religious 
expression. In Building Codes: The Aesthetics of Calvinism in Early Modern 
Europe, Catharine Randall states that Calvinist architects designed the "vast major- 
ity of architectural structures built from the mid-sixteenth to early seventeenth 
centuries in France" (p. 2). Through their work in architecture, Randall argues, 
Calvinists found a new method of self-expression and protest. Randall develops this 
premise into a fascinating book, which focuses on the relationship between religion 
and design. Randall's book is ambitious in scope, as she examines generations of 
architects and analyzes their building, garden and decorative designs. Moreover, 
she presents her innovative ideas in a well-considered and well-written manner. Her 
book contains a multitude of beautiful illustrations, including engravings that are 
enhanced with blueprints and photographs. Her compelling book will be of interest 
to students of art and architectural history, French and history. 

The central premise of Randall's book is that Huguenot architects had a 
unique design style shaped by Calvinist theology. These architects included their 
Calvinist sensibility in designs for their Catholic patrons. Randall asserts that art 
historians have not recognized the centrality of confessional identity to sixteenth- 
and seventeenth-century design. Her book deals with the years between the 1562 
outbreak of the Wars of Religion and the 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes. 
She thus considers Huguenot architects in two generations. Those in the first 
generation were contemporaries of Calvin, namely Philibert de L'Orme and 
Bernard Palissy, architecte du roi for Henri III and Catherine de Medici. Second 
generation designers, working between 1580 and 1630, included Jean Goujon, 
Legier Richier and Jean Bullant. 

Randall claims that by using motifs inspired by Calvin's Institution de la 
religion chrestienne and Biblical texts, Protestant designers were able to introduce 
subversive design elements into the buildings of their Catholic patrons. Randall 
insists that Calvinist architects created an "anti-architecture," which "symbolically 
toppled the power structure" of the Catholic majority (p. 3). They did not accom- 
plish this, however, by adhering to the plain and simple aesthetic of Calvinist 
churches; rather. Huguenot designers embraced the excessively ornate style of the 
Catholic majority. Randall argues that the strained style of Mannerism found its 
full expression in Protestant architects because they exaggerated stylistic tech- 
niques to undermine the authority of their Catholic patrons (p. 20). 

Randall examines the seminal Protestant texts that inspired the Huguenot 
architects, highlighting Calvinist writers who rely upon architectural metaphors. 
She also analyzes the books written by Calvinist architects themselves. Central to 
her argument is the notion of coding in text and in architecture. One needs to know 
how to read the texts and designs to see the Huguenot influences, and Randall 
decodes these for her readers. For instance, she focuses attention on garden design 
and images of nature in decorations, asserting that while, for Catholics, nature 
exemplifies paradise, for Calvinists nature symbolizes the schism between man 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 103 



and God (p. 52). Although I found Randall's argument about the depravity of nature 
compelling, I was less convinced by her assertion that a very ornate façade 
designed by L'Orme was created to exploit Catherine de Medici's fear of structural 
weaknesses (p. 10). 

My inability to accept Randall's interpretation of L'Orme leads me to one of 
my primary criticisms of her work — that she assumes the artists' intentions. 
Randall reviews building and garden designs and the decorative arts in great detail, 
and her comments are very insightful. However, she assumes that the artists 
intentionally created all that she sees and were encoding their projects in the way 
that she decodes them. At points she does ponder the question of pre-meditation, 
but she does not confront the fact that all that she sees might not have been the 
creators' deliberate design. Perhaps a trompe l'œil was a creative expression more 
than a subversive one. 

An even more troubling element of Building Codes is the issue of Nicodemi- 
tism. Randall cannot always be certain that the artists she discusses were Calvin- 
ists. In some instances, the case is clear: for example, Pallisy was tortured to death 
for his beliefs in the Bastille in 1589. Randall concedes, however, that "Philibert 
[de L'Orme] has never been identified explicitly as a Calvinist" (80), and she does 
not convince her reader that he was one. For Randall, L'Orme was the most 
important figure in the first generation of Huguenot architects. She considers him 
the model for later Protestant designers. Her book would have been more convinc- 
ing had she admitted that perhaps not all of her subjects identified themselves as 
Calvinists but that many people of different religious persuasions in France were 
critical of the Catholic power structure. Randall seems too determined to see a 
clear confessional divide, when religious identity was likely more fluid. 

On a minor note, the title of Randall's book is misleading because the scope 
of her project is not European Calvinism; she concentrates on France and Switzer- 
land. Certainly, there were Calvinist architects and designers in Scotland and the 
Netherlands, perhaps with their own building styles. Wider geographical compar- 
isons could have made an interesting addition. I do not mean these criticisms to 
detract from the innovation or importance of Randall's contribution. She has 
written a very important book, which will force historians, including art historians, 
to consider the connections between religion and creative design. 



SUSAN E. DINAN, Long Island University 



104 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Muriel C. McClendon. The Quiet Reformation: Magistrates and the Emergence 
of Protestantism in Tudor Norwich, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 
1999. Pp. xii, 340. 

This lucid and highly readable account of the Reformation in Tudor Norwich seizes 
upon an important emerging issue, one which is likely to be the subject of consid- 
erable future discussion among scholars of religious change in the sixteenth century: 
were violent clashes, disruptive controversies, and deep fissures within the commu- 
nity the inevitable accompaniment of the Reformation? For decades, historians have 
been mesmerized by the movement's less endearing characteristics: bitter enmity 
and savage destructiveness. More recently, attention has turned to another alto- 
gether more peaceful pattern of reform. Accordingly, the results of McClendon 's 
considerable research represent a valuable case study, as scholars go about assessing 
the innovative notion of a "quiet" reform. 

Norwich was the largest, most populous, and most economically active of 
England's provincial towns during the sixteenth century. It was also an important 
medieval religious center, which, in turn, found itself deeply affected by the 
Protestant movement. What it did not experience was the rampant confessional 
conflict that historians have traced for other English urban centers, such as Bristol 
or Colchester. Developments at London have been described as even more discor- 
dant and tumultuous. Despite some early iconoclastic incidents and later Puritan 
activity, Norwich remained fairly tranquil. Its municipal magistrates resisted the 
temptation to impose religious uniformity. In addition, they did not allow their own 
differing religious positions to foment political factionalism. How can Norfolk's 
relatively calm experience of religious reform be best explained? McClendon 
argues that the city's political leaders effectively compartmentalized their religious 
views, carefully separating private belief from public demeanor and civic alle- 
giance. The developments, moreover, relate closely to a growing secularization 
and the emergence of toleration. 

In her discussion of these and related issues, McClendon turns to the town's 
rich yet very much under-utilized archives. The manuscript collections include 
proceedings of the mayor's court and municipal assemblies, financial accounts and 
guild rolls, diocesan records, and parish registers. With careful scrutiny and keen 
insight, they have yielded a wealth of information. Coupled with this strong 
foundation in the primary sources is McClendon's exacting, often challenging 
assessment of the prevailing historical views regarding the nature, strength, and 
influence of the English Reformation. Her treatment, for example, of current 
understandings of sixteenth-century ideas and practices regarding toleration, an 
extremely slippery subject, is a model of its kind. The larger result of this critical 
reading of the sources and existing interpretative models is a vigorous and 
convincing analysis of the Reformation in one of England's prominent cities. 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 105 



Previous historians have focused, perhaps unduly, on religious belief and 
comportment; therein they discovered a fractious world. McClendon broadens the 
scope of the investigation, giving attention to civic rituals, guild associations, and 
municipal corporations. In the process, she sees impressive evidence of communal 
solidarity. Pre- Reformation Norwich was no stranger to civic factions and internal 
discord. The experience apparently proved an important lesson for the later 
generations that guided the city through turbulent decades of shifting religious 
position. Municipal leaders strove, in particular, to preserve local autonomy and 
authority in resolving potentially divisive differences. These mediated settlements 
avoided potentially destabilizing intervention by outside authorities, whether royal 
or ecclesiastical. Local magistrates understood the community reasonably well and 
acted to find ways of reconciling differences, rather than imposing legalistic, 
bureaucratic decisions, which ran the risk of leaving all parties dissatisfied. 

The people of Norwich and the surrounding county of Norfolk were certainly 
aware of and conversant with the multiplicity of religious views in sixteenth-cen- 
tury England. Some early firebrands in the region apparently drew inspiration from 
events on the continent. Local magistrates later profited from Henry VIII's disso- 
lution of the monasteries, although their actions may speak more to business 
acumen than to religious preference. They displayed little zeal in prosecuting those 
who challenged the Henrician religious order. Their actions suggest restraint and 
an unwillingness to insist too much upon confessional cohesion. In a similar vein, 
the Norwich magistrates redirected many popular religious celebrations, trans- 
forming them into civic festivals. 

The implementation of a more fervent Protestantism during the reign of 
Edward VI disrupted the harmony and independence that Norwich's civic leaders 
had painstakingly nurtured. Activists saw an opportunity for further change, while 
traditionalists were repulsed. An uprising of rural Norfolk people led by Robert 
Kett even led to armed intervention by external royal forces. Later, with Mary 
Tudor's accession, the city's magistrates proved more successful in attenuating the 
excesses associated the reimposition of Catholicism. Few inhabitants suffered the 
persecution to which Protestants in other parts of England were subjected. Finally, 
the religious settlement associated with Queen Elizabeth proved an occasion for 
moral and social discipline in Norwich as elsewhere. A campaign against theft, 
vagrancy, illicit sexual conduct, and various other transgressions followed. On a 
more positive note, the municipality established relief programs for the impov- 
erished. Given the nature of these initiatives, it is not surprising that the town had 
also become a center of Puritanism. Still, the magistrates remained committed to 
practical toleration and declined to impose religious uniformity. They contained 
discord and permitted differences. 

In the end, McClendon offers much more than a local study. At every turn, 
she nicely situates events at Norwich within a general framework of national 
developments. The reader discovers a great deal about the overall thrust of the 



106 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



English Reformation, as well as its implementation at one locality. One learns 
much about the reaction of provincial dwellers, as well as the processes by which 
they filtered and adjusted the changes to suit the needs of their community. Perhaps 
more important, the analysis addresses a critical issue in Reformation studies and 
raises several questions. To return to McClendon's thesis, how do we understand 
the extraordinary skill demonstrated by Norwich's elites in mediating these tortu- 
ous religious and cultural shifts? Is this case unique? Why was their constructive 
sense of civic identity, independence, and responsibility replicated so infrequently 
within England and throughout western Europe? Were other magistrates in other 
towns inept, incapable, uninterested in managing events? To pose an obvious 
counter-factual query, could confessional strife have been avoided? At the very 
least, McClendon challenges historians to review the evidence and rethink their 
interpretations. 

RAYMOND A. MENTZER, Montana State University 



Margaret Cavendish. The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays. Ed. Anne 
Shaver. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. Pp. xii, 280. 

Margaret Cavendish, the first Duchess of Newcastle, claimed to write, not for her 
contemporaries, but for more appreciative future readers. And although her contem- 
poraries often responded favorably to her works. Cavendish seems to have found 
especially appreciative readers in the late 1990s, when her poems appeared for the 
first time in anthologies of British literature and when longer works were published 
in several editions. In the context of this re-evaluation of Cavendish's work, Anne 
Shaver's collection of Cavendish's plays may seem almost inevitable, but this 
collection has been thoughtfully prepared to perpetuate that re-evaluation. Before 
the publication of Shaver's collection. Cavendish's nineteen plays were available 
only in her seventeenth-century volumes, Play es (1662) and Plays, Never Before 
Printed (1668). The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays provides students with a 
good introduction to Cavendish and her plays, and it may inspire some scholars to 
explore Cavendish's volumes in greater detail. 

Within its beautifully designed covers, The Convent of Pleasure and Other 
Plays contains an Introduction, six plays by Cavendish (The Bridals, The Convent 
of Pleasure, and two two-part plays. Loves Adventures and Bell in Campo), and a 
series of appendices that reproduce the front matter of Cavendish's two volumes 
of plays and provide excellent lists of primary and secondary sources for "Further 
Reading." As the phrase "Further Reading" may suggest, the volume's editorial 
apparatus seems aimed primarily at undergraduates. The sparse annotations, for 
instance, gloss "Alexander the Great," "bawd," and words that do not appear in 
the OEDy such as "deaticall," which is glossed as "like a goddess" (p. 143). These 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 107 



annotations can be inconsistent — why gloss the common word "bawd" but not 
the less common word "trull"? — but generally they should make Cavendish's 
provocative plays accessible to most undergraduates. 

The collection is most successful when it manages to accommodate the needs 
and interests of scholars and students simultaneously. For example, Shaver's 
introduction, "Margaret Cavendish's Life as a Writer," offers a clear and lively 
biography; it balances the need to individuate Cavendish against the danger of 
characterizing her as simply "eccentric." The inclusion of the copious prefatory 
material from Cavendish's volumes is also important, both for students and for 
scholars. But why put front matter at the back of the book? Cavendish's multiple 
addresses to readers (nine epistles "To the Readers" in the 1662 Play es alone) 
reconfigure the category of "plays": these are not works that the author expects to 
see staged (by printing them. Cavendish believed that she forfeited the possibility 
of theatrical production); neither are these plays simply examples of closet drama, 
since Cavendish clearly would have liked to have seen them on stage. She is 
content, though, to claim her "brain the Stage" and to encourage readers likewise 
to stage her plays in their brains: "for they [readers] must not read a Scene as they 
would a Chapter; for scenes must be read as if they were spoke or Acted" (p. 262). 
Cavendish's attempts to (re)defme the genre of her works and to prescribe reading 
seem more than afterthoughts to be tucked into appendices. But since such 
important paratexts are sometimes omitted altogether, scholars and students alike 
will be grateful that this collection reproduces them at all. 

If the glosses on mythological figures such as Mars ("the Roman god of war") 
suggest that the collection is not intended primarily for an audience of scholars, 
the collection's editorial practices also distinguish this collection from most 
scholarly editions. The brief "Note on Editorial Method" indicates that the collec- 
tion retains some idiosyncrasies, such as question marks for exclamation points, 
because such idiosyncrasies may indicate Cavendish's preference, yet it eliminates 
others, such as non-standard use of dashes, even though such non-standard use 
may also reflect Cavendish's preference. Besides the inconsistent stance toward 
the seventeenth-century printed versions of Cavendish's plays, this collection 
repeatedly refers to those seventeenth-century books as "the original," a vexed 
word for textual critics generally, but particularly vexed for Cavendish, who was 
at once tremendously proud of her books and acutely aware of their inability to 
represent her originating thoughts and fancies. For scholars who, despite these 
questions, might nevertheless want to cite this collection, it provides no line 
numbers. A scholarly edition of Cavendish's plays will have to wait for a still later 
future. 

The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays may help to usher in such a future, 
for it offers to a wide readership some of Cavendish's most accomplished writings. 
In the front matter to the 1662 Playes, Cavendish admits that "most of my Plays 
would seem tedious upon the Stage" (p. 255), and indeed, even on the stage of the 



108 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



brain, the long passages of exposition between "1st Gent." and "2nd Gent." in Bell 
in Campo are clumsy and "tedious." Elsewhere, however. Cavendish skillfully 
manipulates the conventions of mid-seventeenth-century dramatic structure. As 
Shaver points out, Bell in Campo puts a woman. Lady Victoria, and her army at 
the center of a heroic romance. This army of women is so successful that "the 
Masculine Army" must ask in a fulsome letter for the honor of fighting alongside 
them. The ending of this letter and the women's response to it are extraordinary: 

we [the "Masculine Army"] are not so ambitious as to desire to be Commanders, but to 
join our forces to yours, and to be your assistants, and as your Common Souldiers; but 
leaving all these affairs of War to your direction, offering ourselves to your service. 

We kiss your hands; and take our leaves for this time. 
All the women fall into a great laughter, ha, ha, ha, ha. (151) 

As a number of scholars have pointed out. Cavendish's writing cannot be simply 
categorized as "feminist," but where else in seventeenth-century English literature 
might one find armed women (Lady Victoria's army even sleeps with its swords) 
laughing — that most deflating of responses — at the obsequiously polite requests 
of men? By bringing dramatic moments like this one to a broad readership. The 
Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays promises to stimulate even greater interest in 
Cavendish's complex life, writings, and politics. 

RANDALL INGRAM, Davidson College (North Carolina) 



Booknotes 
Notes de lecture 



Danièle Duport. « Les Jardins qui sentent le sauvage ». Ronsard et la poétique 
du paysage. « Cahiers d'Humanisme et Renaissance », vol. 57. Genève, Droz, 
2000. P. 138. 

Ce petit livre, dense et riche, est la version condensée d'un chapitre de thèse de 
doctorat soutenue à l'Université Paris X-Nanterre en 1997 (« Fleurs et paysages 
métaphoriques » dans Le Jardin dans la littérature française au XVI^ siècle ; 
direction : Jean Céard). Danièle Duport aborde la question cruciale, chez Ronsard, 
de la varietas littéraire dans l'imitation de la nature, et elle observe de près comment 
« les paysages se constituent en système » (p. 11) : « L'optique choisie conduit donc 
à lire tous les textes où se présentent les lieux du paysage et du jardin comme des 
commentaires de la poésie et de son pouvoir de représenter la nature » (p. 11-12). 
Repérant les lieux communs de la « métalangue paysagère », en particulier dans les 
Odes, mais aussi dans les Hymnes des Saisons, les Elegies et les Poèmes, D. Duport 
montre que les lieux (paysages) renvoient à une poétique des styles («à chaque style 
un paysage propre » [p. 16]), où le style élevé et, avec lui, l'exigence supérieure du 
naturel, sont recherchés sans cesse par Ronsard. 

FRANÇOIS ROUGET, Queen 's University 



John Spurr. English Puritanism, 1603-1689. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998. 
Pp. X, 245 (includes glossary and bibliography). 

English Puritanism, 1603-1689 is a welcome contribution to the study of the 
religious, political, and social history of seventeenth-century England. Informative 
and accessible, this introduction concentrates on the elusive Puritan movement 
which has been charged (and credited) with everything from igniting the English 
civil wars to introducing capitalism. The definition of puritanism that Spurr devel- 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 2 (1999) /1 09 



110/ Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



ops from his examination of religious and political documents, letters, diaries, 
autobiographies, plays, and sermons, as well as his engagement with current 
scholarship, is based on his interpretation of how seventeenth-century puritans saw 
each other and how they were perceived in their day. Spurr acknowledges that the 
term "puritan" was dynamic and applied to several denominations; it denoted a 
cluster of ideas, attitudes, and habits, all derived from a belief in justification by 
faith alone, predestination of the elect, and regeneration. He also distinguishes 
puritans from other dissenters and unsettles some of traditional assumptions about 
the early movement through his observations about the social and political conser- 
vatism of many puritans. Influenced by revisionist interpretations of seventeenth- 
century history, largely the product of British historians, Spurr concludes that 
"perhaps we are too hasty to point out innovations and too slow to recognize how 
little else had really changed" (p. 202). The book's twelve chapters are divided into 
three sections, which follow a general introduction: Puritans and Puritanism; The 
Rise and Fall of the Puritans; The Puritan Experience. 

ELIZABETH SAUER, Brock University 



Paul E. J. Hammer. The Polarisation of Elizabethan Politics: The Political 
Career of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, 1585-1597. Cambridge: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1999. Pp. xviii, 446. 

A well-written reassessment of the successful years of Elizabeth's last favorite, 
based on extensive and careful use of a wide variety of unpublished archival 
sources, this book aims to rehabilitate the earl's reputation. Often slighted as an 
impetuous, indulged and philandering aristocrat whose flaws far exceeded his goals, 
Essex is here presented as a valorous young man who pictured himself as the 
military leader of a threatened international Protestant movement, but was forced 
by circumstances to concern himself with the political process on which his goals 
rested. The case for the earl's consistent and coherent political aims is clearly 
presented in the introduction and conclusion of the book and partially sustained in 
the intervening chapters. Unfortunately, many of his actions, particularly after 1590, 
require a very sympathetic reading in order to make them fît this interpretation. 

Essex too often acted in ways that undercut his presumed program. Hammer 
shows the degree to which his honor impelled him to support the suits or goals of 
his followers beyond the point where success was even remotely possible. Said to 
have disdained the sycophancy and indirectness of the court, he could not refrain 
from compromising liaisons with the queen's ladies-in-waiting, angering their 
families and the queen. He failed to create a domestic power base, circulated 
self-justifying tracts that alienated even those inclined to support him, and aban- 
doned his puritan supporters to support Whitgift's efforts to install their enemy, 
Bancroft, as bishop of London. His desire permanently to occupy Cadiz, presented 



Book Notes / Notes de lecture /111 



as a central element of his anti-Spanish policy, seems foolhardy and doomed to 
failure, given Philip IPs greater wealth and power. In his conclusion, Hammer 
suggests that in 1597 there was no Cecil faction, but rather an anti-Essex coalition; 
he does not deny the existence of an Essex faction. 

At times. Hammer's central argument disappears in the presentation of the 
details of the earl's actions as patron, courtier-favorite, warrior and royal advisor. 
It is the recounting of these details that many readers will find the most valuable 
element of the book, which is generally well edited, although Elizabeth is twice 
charged with "prevarication" when "procrastination" was clearly intended. 

ALAN G. ARTHUR, Brock University 



The editor welcomes submissions in English or French on any aspect of the 
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Submissions are refereed anonymously; the author's name should appear only on the title 
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The journal does not accept unsolicited reviews. However, those interested in reviewing 
books should contact the Book Review Editor. 

* * * 

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VOLUME XXIII NUMBER 



FALL 1999 



RENAISSANCE 

AND REFORMATION 





OLUME XXIII NUMÉRO 4 AUTOMNE 1999 



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Canadian Publication Sales Agreement No. 0590762 ISSN 0034-429X 



PERIODICALS READING Huuivi 

\oëa\ Sclenctt 




New Series, Vol. XXHI, No. 4 Nouvelle Série, Vol. XXm, No 4 

Old Series, Vol. XXXV, No. 4 1 999 Ancienne Série, Vol. XXXV, No 4 



CONTENTS / SOMMAIRE 



^0^^^> 




EDITORIAL 

3 



ARTICLES 

The Reformation of Death in Italy and England, circa 1550 

by M. A. Overell 
5 

« Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » : Hiérarchie sociale et 
transgression des ordonnances somptuaires en France, 1543-1606 

par Pascal Bastien 
23 

"What should we do?": The Predicament of Practical Reason in Hamlet 

by Eric P. Levy 
45 

Books and Book-Form in Milton 

by John K. Hale 

63 

BOOK REVIEWS/COMPTES RENDUS 

François Rabelais. Œuvres romanesques (les cinq livres de Pantagruel) 

recensé par Claude La Charité 
79 



Marie de Goumay et V Édition de 1595 des Essais de Montaigne. Actes du 
Colloque organisé par la Société Internationale des Amis de Montaigne les 9 

et 10 juin 1995, en Sorbonne 
Montaigne et Marie de Goumay. Actes du Colloque international 

de Duke 31 mars-1 avril 1995 

recensés par Hannah Foumier 

80 

Éditer les Essais de Montaigne. Actes du Colloque tenu 
à l'Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne les 27 et 28 janvier 1995 

recensé par Fausta Garavini 
83 

Yves Délègue. Montaigne et la mauvaise foi. L'écriture de la vérité 

recensé par Michel Liddle 
87 

Jean- Yves Pouilleux. Montaigne. L'Eveil de la pensée 

recensé par Keith Cameron 

89 

Michael J. B. Allen. Synoptic Art: Marsilio Ficino on 

the History of Platonic Interpretation 

reviewed by John Monfasani 

91 

Lynne Magnusson. Shakespeare and Social Dialogue: 

Dramatic Language and Elizabethan Letters 

reviewed by Frank Whigham 

93 

Joad Raymond, ed. News, Newspapers, 

and Society in Early Modem Britain 

reviewed by Jennifer L. Andersen 

96 

Balachandra Rajan. Under Western Eyes: India from Milton to Macaulay 

reviewed by Christopher I vie 
99 

BOOKNOTES/NOTES DE LECTURE 

Alain Cuillère. Les Écrivains et le pouvoir en Lorraine au XVi siècle 

recensé par François Rouget 
103 

Lena Cowen Orlin, ed. Material London, ca. 1600 

reviewed by Brian Patton 

104 

Aline Goosens. Les Inquisitions modernes 
dans les Pays-Bas méridionaux (1520-1633). T. 2 (Les Victimes) 

recensé par Otilia Lopez Fanego 
104 



Editorial 



This space, like the filler of it, has 
lately been much preoccupied with 
administrative matters, and the present 
issue contains yet another announce- 
ment of this kind. Effective immediately, 
the business operations of Renaissance 
and Reformation/Renaissance et 
Réforme will be relocated to the Centre 
for Reformation and Renaissance Stud- 
ies, Victoria University in the Univer- 
sity of Toronto. All communications, 
including manuscripts submitted for 
consideration, should henceforth be 
directed to the new office there (see the 
inside cover for address), which will 
also be taking over development of our 
Web site. Fittingly, this practical means 
of dealing with an increasing adminis- 
trative burden represents a partial return 
to origins: the journal's founding in the 
mid-1960s was connected with the 
establishment of the Centre itself by a 
group of eminent Toronto scholars. The 
present move will have no effect, how- 
ever, on editorial policies and practices. 



Le rédacteur de cet espace a été 
récemment beaucoup préoccupé par des 
affaires administratives, et le présent 
numéro annonce encore un changement 
à cet égard. Dorénavant, la gestion de 
Renaissance and Reformation/Renais- 
sance et Réforme sera effectuée par le 
Centre for Reformation and Renaissance 
Studies, Victoria University in the Uni- 
versity of Toronto. Toutes communica- 
tions, y compris les textes destinés au 
directeur, devront donc être dirigées à 
cet établissement (voir adresse sur 
l'intérieur de la couverture), qui 
s'occupera également du développement 
de notre site Web. Ce moyen pratique de 
faciliter les tâches administratives, 
devenues de plus en plus lourdes, com- 
porte un retour partiel aux origines de la 
revue ; sa fondation pendant les années 
soixante était liée à celle du même Cen- 
tre par un groupe de chercheurs éminents 
torontois. Cependant, ce déménagement 
du bureau de rédaction n'affectera en 
rien ni les politiques ni les pratiques 
édi tori aies de notre revue. 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 4 (1999) /3 



The Reformation of 
Death in Italy and England, 

circa 1550 



M. A. Overell 



Résumé : La présente étude comparative traite des pratiques et des attentes des 
premiers Protestants à V égard du lit de mort. U histoire populaire italienne de 
la mort de Francesco Spiera en 1548, qui servait de propagande, est comparée 
avec des textes contemporains de la réforme anglaise. Les prières anglaises 
autour du lit de mort furent plus éloquentes, mais il y a dans les deux pays des 
indications d'incertitude en ce qui concerne la dernière communion et la vie 
future. L'Ars Moriendi du Moyen Age exerça une influence continue, les réfor- 
mateurs mettant V accent sur la mort comme instrument d'apprentissage pour le 
vivants. 



In Samuel Richardson's novel, Clarissa, published in 1747-48, the heroine 
cannot escape from her tyrannical family. Even when she is living apart 
from them, she receives this sinister package of books: 

A Drexelius on Eternity, the good old Practice of Piety and a Francis Spira. My brother's 
wit I suppose. He thinks he does well to point out death and despair to me. 

She recognises the three books and the sender's intention with ease: death 
is being used as a way of controlling the living. Yet, by then, all three titles 
were well over a century old. The Considerations . . . upon Eternity of the 
Jesuit, Drexelius, and Lewis Bayly's Practise of Piety were popular with 
English Protestant readers.^ The last, the principal focus of this study, was 
the oldest. Francesco Spiera's final illness took place in Padua in 1548. 
Nearly two centuries later he appeared on Clarissa's enforced reading list. 
The Spiera legend had been frequently reproduced and revised and was still 
embedded in English Protestant psychology.^ 



6 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

The Spiera story is an uneasy mixture of fact and fiction. It runs like 
this: Spiera, a hard-up lawyer, took up Protestant beliefs and was questioned 
by the Venetian Inquisition in 1547-48. He recanted his Protestantism, did 
a public penance and then fell into incurable despair, from which he died at 
the end of 1548, convinced that he was damned because he had denied his 
faith. There can be no doubt about the story's impact. At least three different 
versions were in print in Latin, Italian and English and circulating widely 
within two years of Spiera's death. Matteo Gribaldi published his Historia 
in 1549; it was translated into English in the following year. Also in 1550, 
at Basel, Caelio Secundo Curione brought out a collection of four supposedly 
eye-witness accounts, which included a preface by John Calvin. Pier Paolo 
Vergerio's La Historia di M F. Spiera^ printed in 1551, again in Basel, was 
part of his unrelenting campaign against Cardinal Reginald Pole's alleged 
concealment of Protestant sympathies.^ Spiera' s death was a key element in 
the vociferous European anti-Nicodemite propaganda warfare designed to 
prevent Protestant dissimulation. "Don't deny your faith" was the intended 
message, but a death was its context. 

To date, historians have concentrated on the propaganda and by-passed 
the details of the death. This study reverses that process and focusses on what 
was going on round the death-bed: the conversations, prayers and rituals. 
These were the activities that Spiera's chroniclers took for granted, and 
therefore they are an invaluable source of unwitting testimony. Here is a 
deathbed scene as envisaged by sixteenth-century Italian Protestants. It 
throws light on some important questions. How did these scattered Italian 
Protestants expect to reform Catholic practice? What did they do and what 
did they believe about death? How did their expectations and beliefs compare 
with those of other Protestants? Contemporary English death rituals will be 
used for this comparison. The Italian-English link is useful for two reasons. 
First, the Edwardian reformation provided plenty of evidence exactly con- 
temporary with the Spiera publications. Second, English readers knew all 
about Spiera — and were encouraged to die better than he had.^ This study 
asks whether there were enough similarities between the rituals at Spiera's 
deathbed and contemporary English evidence to suggest that these Protes- 
tants were in broad agreement about the reformation of deathbed practices. 

European Christendom already had a Catholic construct of death, known 
to both literate and illiterate. Spiera's tragedians wrote very close in time to 
the highpoint of the Ars Moriendi. The text. Speculum artis bene moriendi, 
first appeared in the early fifteenth century, but the related publications in 
the second half of the century of eleven woodcut pictures with brief textual 
explanations gave it a powerful hold on the popular imagination in Italy and 



M. A. Overell / The Reformation of Death in Italy and England, circa 1550 / 7 

England as elsewhere.^ Spiera's story was closely modelled on the Ars 
Moriendi. Many components are the same: a dying man as the centre of 
attention in a crowded room, a clergyman to visit and guide, family and 
friends around, the involvement of lawyers and doctors, the presence of 
devils, ritual acts. The Catholic bits have been taken out and the outcome 
was radically different. Moriens of the old texts had some despairing moments 
but finally died well. Spiera died very badly. 

Some historians have treated the Spiera stories as fact. This is unwise. 
We are in the field of anti-Nicodemite propaganda. The accounts do not agree 
and are so highly stylised that it is clear that the writers are fitting real events 
into archetypal patterns.^ Similarly, all the writers were or became Protes- 
tants and glossed events according to the denominational certainties of later 
generations. But these hard and fast lines were not so clear in the doctrinal 
fog of Northern Italy in the late 1540s. Spiera had certainly toyed with ideas 
later viewed as Protestant, but so had many eminent Catholics. At the time 
of his imprisonment in 1556, Cardinal Morone wistfully reflected upon the 
situation in Italy a decade earlier, which had brought such trouble on his 
head, as on Spiera's: "There was very nearly licence for everyone to do and 
say what he thought right."^ Spiera's drama began in the same atmosphere 
of theological free-for-all. But in the Veneto region, where he lived, the rules 
of the game changed suddenly in 1547. In January, the Decree of Justification 
was issued from Trent, and in the April of that year the Roman Inquisition 
was permitted for the first time in Venice, a permission granted reluctantly 
by a state always deeply resistant to the papacy. It was powerless nonentities 
like Spiera who were the first to be caught in the shifting political sands. ^ 

Spiera was a notary. He would have visited many sickrooms, and it is 
clear that death was much on his mind from the outset of his examination by 
the ecclesiastical authorities. When his Inquisition trial began in May 1548, 
he admitted doubts on Purgatory and on the suffering of the dead, based on 
his faith that Christ had died for his sins. He also agreed that he had a Bible, 
had translated the Lord's Prayer and had read the Bénéficia di Cristo. He was 
told to abjure, and soon afterwards despair set in and a serious illness was 
diagnosed. ^^ He was so ill that he was moved from Cittadella, his home, to 
Padua for medical treatment, and it was there that all the writers of the 
deathbed accounts visited him. They make it clear that, by then, Spiera was 
a very sick man, kept alive by force-feeding. His mental state is harder to 
fathom. According to Matteo Gribaldi, Spiera was " looking every hour for 
the terrible sentence of God." ^' Yet in Gribaldi's and all the other Protestant 
accounts, he was presented as dignified, reflective, well-versed in his faith 
and in the Scripture and, in the early stages, co-operative about everything 



8 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

except food. Protestants stressed his absolute sanity, while every Catholic 
deposition to the Inquisition after Spiera's death said he was mad.^^ 

The writers of the main accounts were part of a rather classy team of 
professional visitors: a professor of law, two other lawyers, several doctors, 
a bishop and at least one parish priest — in some accounts more. The 
professor was Matteo Gribaldi, already a Protestant, working in Padua but 
officially resident, for reasons of safety, in Protestant Basel. The bishop was 
Pier Paolo Vergerio, a friend of Gribaldi, still a Catholic, but being watched 
by the Inquisition when the Spiera saga started. By his own account he visited 
about twenty times, and the local bishop certainly objected to his obsessive 
interest. From his exile two years later, Vergerio told Martin Borrhaus, "I 
would not be in Basel now had I not seen Spiera." ^^ 

But without Vergerio, Spiera probably would not be with us either. He 
inserted Spiera' s death into the anti-Nicodemite campaign, and his version 
of events influenced all the other writers: they quoted his testimony and 
deferred to him a great deal. Although Spiera turned away from a local priest, 
Antonio Fontanina, who was involved with his recantation, there was no 
general anti-clericalism. Everyone wanted Vergerio 's advice about what to 
do and when to pray. He was master of ceremonies, as well as chief chronicler 
at this notorious death. ^"^ 

It was a social deathbed; often there were thirty people there at once — 
a scene very much in accordance with Catholic traditions. The fifth chapter 
of the textual version of the Ars Moriendi says that neighbours should help 
Moriens repent and be reconciled, and that they should read spiritual books 
to him. Above all, they should pray.^^ Spiera's neighbours have different 
priorities. They do not seem to pray much on their own initiative — only 
when Vergerio leads them. They talk theology, quote Scripture and discuss 
doctrine a great deal. On the faith-versus-works issue they are particularly 
vocal. Many of them are "young men," probably students at the University 
of Padua. ^^ Their role, especially in Gribaldi's account, is one of the most 
arresting features of these documents; a theological seminar rumbles on 
around the deathbed. Neighbours and students alike are there to learn. Aries 
has noted how, from the sixteenth century onwards, the "ars moriendi" 
changed to the "ars vivendi," and that is certainly what seems to be going on 
here.^^ 

Demons are present — left there at deathbeds, of course, by medieval 
literature and iconography — but it is significant that they are carried into 
Protestant death so completely. Thus, Spiera sees a fly and thinks it is 
Beelzebub; later, "weeping [he] began to declare unto to us horrible visions. 
He perceived devils to come to his chamber, yea to his bed, making a noise 



M. A. Overell / The Reformation of Death in Italy and England, circa 1 550 / 9 

and business. . . . sticking pins in the pillow. . . . and ... he conceived not 
these things by a false or corrupt imagination." V^ This was certainly not 
original: the Ars Moriendr s woodcut for the moment of despair also has a 
devil perilously close to the pillow. ^^ Such mental types transcended theo- 
logical divisions. 

Profession of faith was a crucial first step in deathbed ritual in both the 
Ars Moriendi and the Spiera accounts. The Ars includes alternatives for this 
profession — one quite a slick credal statement, the other more ponderous 
and detailed.2^ But when Spiera's visitors ask him about his faith, they seem 
to want something different — something more like a full personal testa- 
ment: when he started to believe, what he thinks are the essentials and why 
he has lost faith. He begins by saying that he believes "in the infinite mercy 
of god, that every man who has faith obtaineth pardon of all the sins of the 
world'* but wearily points out that he lacks this faith, hence his condition. ^^ 
On their second visit, Vergerio and Gribaldi question him further about his 
old faith, and his answer is long and specific and packed with scriptural 
quotation. The formal statements which had characterised Catholic death 
literature have been superseded. The spontaneous declaration of individual 
faith is being pushed up the scale of importance. 

There is such a contradiction between Protestant and Catholic evidence 
on the issue of Spiera's confession and communion that it is impossible for 
the historian to decide whether he received either sacrament. Nardini, the 
relative with whom Spiera stayed in Padua, was brought before the Inquisi- 
tion two weeks after Spiera's death to give an account of what had happened. 
Relatives in such tricky situations have their own axes to grind, so his 
carefully Catholic evidence is just as unreliable as that of the Protestant 
writers. Nardini said that Vergerio had paid for the services of a doctor, Pietro 
di Crassio, "because of his situation, to get him to confession and commu- 
nion. "^^ A Protestant source; the writer of a letter included in Curio's 
collection of Spiera narratives, said that communion was offered but that 
Spiera refused it on the grounds that "he would therefore receive it to his 
own damnation because had not faith. "^^ Yet the main sources, Vergerio and 
Gribaldi, excluded all mention of the last sacraments altogether. The conflict 
of evidence suggests a sensitive topic. 

So, to the matter of confession — a practice not rejected outright by all 
Protestant reformers.^'^ Spiera's chroniclers make much of his two public 
self-accusations. In Vergerio's account, Spiera tells of his "sin which he had 
committed in the exercise of his authority as a lawyer" and then of his 
"denial."25 But in Gribaldi's account, different sins crop up: "I did not 
reknowledge the benefits of Christ. . . . But rather I took the faith of the 



10 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



gospel to the liberty of the flesh and so did abuse that faith to unlawful 
licence to sin." Then Spiera launches into a lengthy piece of advice 
interspersed with self-accusation. It is directed at a group of young men 
standing at the bedside: 

Ye should not set too much by your faith, but that also ye should do good workes ... he 
did commend, above all the scripture, the worthy epistle of peter which exhorteth all 
Christians to godliness, holiness, chastitie and a cleane life . . . but I lived wickedly and 
ungodly. 

Tantalizingly vague as it is, the bystanders seem to treat this as a form of 
confession: "Then began we to dispute the matter . . . and diligently to search 
whether his trespass were mortal or no.'*^^ Clearly, this was not sacramental 
confession. But, as the latter went out the back door, a very public form of 
self-accusation seemed to be coming in the front. Protestants were still acting 
out confessional roles and using the traditional categories of sin — is it 
mortal? 

The very silence on the subject of communion in the main accounts 
prompts further questions about the reason for the presence of so many 
clergymen. Had these priests and their accompanying bishop hoped to offer 
a sacrament Spiera refused? Or had they come as proto-Protestants, deter- 
mined to find a non-sacramental but still clerical function? Certainly, it is 
Vergerio to whom everyone looks to lead the prayers, and prayer itself is still 
definitely an important part of the deathbed scene. But these Italian reform- 
ers seem at a loss for words; they use the Lord's Prayer and nothing but the 
Lord's Prayer. There is none of the confident patch working seen in many 
reformation liturgies. Even their prayer is not a disinterestedly spiritual 
activity; it is used to gauge Spiera' s spiritual state. Three times Vergerio tried 
to get Spiera to say the Lord's Prayer, changing the language from Italian to 
Latin as the general anxiety increased. Whilst he did this, the bystanders 
watched for signs of Spiera's disposition. So after Vergerio's "I would we 
prayed together," Spiera said the "Our Father, in his mother tongue. . . . with 
such gravity and devotion" that all were impressed. Later, when Spiera has 
told of visions of devils, Vergerio suggests the Lord's Prayer in Latin and 
Spiera responds, "with plentiful tears devoutly and gravely." At their third 
shot, the language is unspecified, and "he said it no more with such affection 
of heart."28 

It seems clear that Spiera's emotions are under such intense scrutiny 
because these bystanders are on the look-out for signs of election or repro- 
bation. What is going on inside heart and head is seen as crucial, as Spiera 
himself recognises: "I have said it with my mouth but my heart is clean from 
it."29 His luke-warm prayer and his increasing fierceness towards friends 



M. A. Overell / The Reformation of Death in Italy and England, circa 1 550 / 1 1 

and family are bad signs. His weeping, however, is a good one, and at that 
moment Gribaldi bursts out, "Now Master Francis, the blessed God be 
praised, now these are not the tokens of utter refusing or casting away."^^ 

When Spiera himself quashes such hopes, the spectators try new tacks. 
Perhaps Spiera is "so tormented in this world that God hath not reserved your 
punishment to another world." This idea imitates the redemptive suffering 
of Lazarus and is far closer to salvation by works than by faith. Spiera's 
learned visitors had all been trained as lawyers, not theologians, and they 
seem far from sure of themselves. Several theologies of death are running at 
once. Later Gribaldi tries "the sleeping of souls," an ancient belief which 
had been revived by Luther.^ ^ Spiera's reply, however, sidelines Luther and 
goes straight back to predestination: "Although a certain doctor of Germany 
supposeth that this is not manifestly enough declared by the scriptures; yet 
I believe that the soul of the elect doth straight way ascend unto the place of 
everlasting bliss and doth not sleep with the buried body."^^ 

Other theologies of death had been aired, but predestination had won.^^ 
Finally, the writers show that Spiera is not going to "everlasting bliss." 
Conclusive proof of his state of soul emerges when he threatens suicide and 
snatches at "wood-knives" and "cords." Calvin wrote a preface insisting that 
Spiera actually succeeded in strangling himself, but the artful Italian chron- 
iclers were more subtle. Although they wrote after Spiera's death, they ended 
their stories at the moment when Spiera was taken from Padua on a carriage 
to travel the short journey home to Cittadella to die. Disingenuously, they 
pretended not to know the outcome, and, in their epilogues, they asked their 
readers for news of him.^"* 

This, the very opposite of a good death, sheds some light on what kind 
of reconstruction of death was going on among Italian Protestants. The 
similarities to the Ars Moriendi suggest that its influence was a pervasive, if 
unconscious, model, always lurking in the background. The sickroom was 
crowded with neighbours (perhaps more so than that of Moriens), but these 
Protestant visitors discussed issues of faith more than they interceded. 
Instruction of the bystanders is a major preoccupation of all the versions of 
the story. The relationships, emotions and dispositions were closely watched 
as signs of the state of mind and therefore of the ultimate destination of the 
dying. Professionals, such as clergymen, doctors and lawyers, still visited 
frequently, and so did "cohorts of de vils. "^^ It was still the doctor's role to 
say when it was time for the final rituals. The last sacraments were the subject 
of some contradiction. Unction has gone. Sacramental confession and abso- 
lution have been replaced by self- accusation by innuendo. Communion was 
offered, according to some witnesses, but the main Protestant accounts 



12 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



pointedly omit it. The clergyman's role was no longer sacramental, but he 
was still expected to lead the prayers. These, however, seemed to consist of 
nothing but the Lord's Prayer. As to beliefs about life after death, the 
dominant theology was predestinarian, but other ideas about how the dying 
might be saved were still under discussion. 

But the Italian Reformation is often seen as half-bom, radical, eccen- 
tric.^^ Did these goings-on in Spiera's sickroom bear any relation to the 
expectations of other Protestants? Were English Protestant deathbeds 
enough like Spiera's to suggest a developing European Protestant art of 
dying? My main points of comparison will be Thomas Becon's Sicke Mans 
Salve, a guide to a good Protestant death in dramatic form, probably written 
in 1553, and the two Edwardian Prayer Books of 1549 and 1552.^^ 

Just as the entire Spiera story was written to scare the living, so all the 
English sources show the same shift from "Moriens" to the bystanders. 
Becon's four comforters (shades of Job?) have the effrontery to express their 
self-interest, as the sick man, Epaphroditus, reaches his death throes: "In you 
as in a cleare mirror we behold ourselves and see what shall become of us 
hereafter. In you as of a lively schoolmaster do we leame."^^ Such learning 
had become central to Protestantism. Since the foundations of faith had been 
shaken, they had to be rebuilt, and this, the most important of all the rites of 
passage, was too good a chance to be missed. So theological teaching had 
priority in English sickrooms, as in Spiera's. "Dearly Beloved, know this . . ." 
are the first words the priest-cum-minister addresses to the sick in the 
Visitation rite in both Prayer Books. ^^ 

Similarly, the intense scripturalism of the Spiera pieces is mirrored in 
England. Becon's commentary on the Nicene Creed, supposedly delivered 
at the bedside, added so many scriptural proofs that his version runs to 4000 
words. Both Prayer Books turn prayer itself into a vehicle for scriptural 
teaching, usually to remind God of his own good record: "Visit him as thou 
didst visit Peter's wife's mother and the Captain's servant. And as thou 
preservdst Thobie and Sara by thy angel from danger: So restore this sick 
person to his former health.'"*^ Becon does the same: "Deliver him, O Lord, 
as thou deliveredst Noe from the raging waves of the sea. Lot from the 
destruction of Sodom, Abraham from the fear of the Chaldes, the children 
of Israel fron the tiranny of pharao, David from the hand of Goliath. . . . '"^^ 
Here the list is, in fact, very long indeed. Whereas the Ars Moriendi had 
suggested that visiting neighbours should read his favourite spiritual books 
to the dying man. Protestantism was "single source. "^^ That source, the 
scriptures, bounced off the walls of sickrooms in England, as in Italy. 



M. A. Overell / The Reformation of Death in Italy and England, circa 1550 / 13 

English sources, however, move towards a devotional variety missing 
at Spiera's deathbed. Apart from the weaving of Scripture into prayer, there 
was more willingness to raid the Catholic traditions. The rites for the 
visitation of the sick continue to use the Psalms as an introduction, and there 
is the old "Saviour of the world" prayer at the end. Becon's sick man even 
has a shortened "Commendatio," the ancient "Go forth, O Christian soul . . .," 
at the moment of death. This dipping into Catholic liturgy seems to have 
made the English less tongue-tied in face of death. "^^ 

Sickrooms in England, as in Italy, remained the territory of the profes- 
sionals, and especially of the clergy. They were in charge of this reconstruc- 
tion, and it was inherently unlikely that they would write themselves out of 
the script. English parish records, too, show that people wanted them there 
and were scandalised by their absence or refusal.^ Neighbours gathered in 
English deathbed scenes to the same degree as in Spiera's. Becon's dramatic 
form made it inevitable that his four visitors should be even more of a 
chat-show than Spiera's theologising students."*^ But both Prayer Books 
recognised the potential usefulness of bystanders for making practical 
arrangements, and the uplifted neighbourly hands of Tudor death pictures 
prove prayer to have been part of their role."*^ Spectators had always been 
important, but Protestantism raised their stock significantly. 

Visitation from "the cohorts of devils" was regarded as a fact of death 
in England, as in Italy: Becon thought them "most Busy" at that time."^^ 
Whereas Spiera had them on his pillow, a young Cambridge undergraduate 
sited them at the end of his bed, where he could spit at them. Medieval 
iconography had left them jostling for position on, under, behind and above 
deathbeds, and there they stayed."*^ 

English evidence, like the Italian, contains suspicious contradictions 
regarding the sacraments. Becon excludes them altogether and specifically 
mocks "Communions-saying" among other "worthless" traditions."^^ For con- 
fession, he substitutes a generalised public self-accusation, very like Spiera's.^^ 
But the evidence of the Prayer Books is significantly more sacramental, and 
this is true even of the 1552 book, which was, in MacCulloch's telling phrase, 
"a piece of theological hatchet- work" so far as death was concerned.^* 
Unction disappeared altogether, as did all possibility of taking the conse- 
crated and reserved host to the sick. Yet, even after that radical pruning, 
private confession was possible, if desired, and the words of absolution were 
not altered. What is more, the communion of the sick remained — although 
in practice it became distinctly harder to get. The rubric concerning practical 
preparations goes like this: 



14 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



The sick person . . . must give knowledge overnight, or else early in the morning to the 
Curate, signifying also how many be appointed to communicate with him. And having 
a convenient place in the sick man's house, where the curate may reverently minister, 
and a good number to receive communion with the sick person, with all things necessary 
for the same, he shall there minister the Holy Communion. 

This required management. The English generation which had grown up 
with the medieval horror of dying "unshriven" and "unhouseled" was 
allowed to keep both sacraments, but only if they could make all the right 
arrangements in time.^^ All the "ifs" and "buts" were powerful messengers 
of a changed set of priorities. 

The state of mind of Moriens at the fmal moment remained para- 
mount.^^ The English scrutinised the emotions and then interpreted the signs 
just as intensively as in the Spiera accounts. It mattered that death was well 
taken by the dying. He or she must show a proper sense of providence: "know 
you certainly that it is God's visitation." "Submitting yourself required that 
there should be no grumbling, some weeping and much faith.^^ These 
dispositions had left the stage as Catholic good works and returned immediately 
as Protestant signs of election. Despair, too, remained a compulsory experi- 
ence. Becon's well-behaved Protestant still has a very lengthy slough of 
despond.^^ Theologies might come and go but despair endured. If it contin- 
ued too close to the point of death, however, that was bad news and of itself 
an indication of damnation. Re-enter Spiera. 

His creators were responsible for a daring distortion of tradition. The 
impenetrable despair of the Italian accounts was not what the English 
envisaged. It is significant that Latimer took issue with their theology in the 
same breath as he mentioned Spiera, in a sermon before Edward VI's court 
in 1552: 

I know that Judas sinned against the Holy Ghost, also Nero, Pharoah and one Franciscus 
Spira; Which man had forsaken popery . . . [but] he, contrary to the admonition of the 
Holy Ghost, denied the word of God and so finally died in desperation; him I may 
pronounce to have sinned against the Holy Ghost. But I will show you a remedy for sin 
against the Holy Ghost. Ask remission of sin in the name of Christ and then I ascertain 

en 

you that you sin not against the Holy Ghost. 

Latimer's "remedy" was tantamount to a bucket of cold water. Despair was 
all well and good but persistence in it was unchristian. Nonetheless, the tale 
of Spiera's nasty death was devoured by English readers. It influenced 
Nathaniel Woodes, Christopher Marlowe, then John Bunyan, and from there 
found fame in English and Scottish chap-books until well into the nineteenth 
century, terrifying the uneducated in the process.^^ But even though this later 
literature absorbed Spiera's message that people could be damned and go to 



M. A. Overell / The Reformation of Death in Italy and England, circa 11 

hell, mid-sixteenth century English sermons, deathbed guides and official 
liturgies certainly did not. 

So where were the English going? Social historians often argue that 
since Protestants gave up purgatory and thought the decision about Heaven 
or Hell happened immediately, the Reformation involved a revolution in 
deathbed practice. But this view seems to interpret the sixteenth century 
situation in the light of the more settled views of seventeenth century 
predestinarians.^^ These doctrines had not bedded down by the middle of the 
sixteenth century. English sources, quite as much as the Italian, suggest that 
there was an interim, a time to come to terms with contradictory views about 
the destination of the dying. As late as 1550, Latimer was still praying for 
souls. Becon thundered against the "purgatorirakers," but belief in purgatory 
was so hard to shift that Sandys still saw a need to preach against it in 1 574.^^ 
Also, the ancient idea of the sleep of death influenced this English generation 
schooled in the classics and sometimes in Luther's writings. Preachers 
regularly called cemeteries "dormitories of Christians." Like the Italians, the 
English were still finding their way on this sensitive subject, even though 
predestination was to be accepted gradually as orthodoxy.^* 

Consolation pervaded official English sources. Cranmer's "Homily on 
the Fear of Death" ends on an unequivocal note: "Wherefore it cannot but 
be that if we be his faithful servants, our souls shall be with him after our 
departing."^^ The idea of damnation crops up in the Prayer Book liturgies in 
the context of a gospel reading and appears only as something that will be 
avoided: "he that heareth my word . . . shall not come into damnation." 
Article 17 on Predestination of the 42 Articles of 1553 is the classic instance 
of teaching election but leaving reprobation unsaid. The words of committal 
in the Burial Service in both the 1549 and 1552 Prayer Books — "in sure 
and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life"^^ — resounded at life's most 
tender moment, despite later predestinarian protests. Private sources suggest 
that good Calvinists believed that their relatives and friends were going to 
Heaven. ^"^ The Spiera narratives were propaganda; they were bound to 
collide with liturgy and pastoral practice on this final, crucial point. Their 
message was one man's hell, whereas the entire "elect nation" seemed likely 
to avoid such an outcome. 

In all other respects, however, there are strong similarities between 
these two Protestant reconstructions: doctrinal teaching and scriptural quo- 
tation in the sickroom, apparently aimed at the living rather than the dying; 
theologically minded and talkative visitors; attempts to find new words for 
bedside prayer, halting in Italy, bolder in England; public but non-specific 
confessions of sin; contradictions, sensitivities, "ifs" and "buts" about the 



16 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



last communion; intense concentration on the emotions of the dying man and 
his dispositions at the last moment; unsettled doctrines of the hereafter. 
Italian and English Protestants were reforming death on very similar lines, 
and both were weaving Protestant variations around the Ars MoriendVs 
persistent theme. 



Open University 



Notes 

1 . Samuel Richardson, Clarissa; or the History of a Young Lady, Everyman's Library, 4 vols. 
(London: Dent, 1965-67), 2: 256, 262 (Letter 74, Clarissa to Miss Howe). 

2. Hieremias Drexelius (Jeremiah Drexel), De Aetemitate Considerationes (1620), trans. R. 
Winterton as The Considerations of Drexelius upon Eternity (London: N. Alsop, 1632), 
RSTC 7235; Lewis Bayly, The Practise ofPietie (London: J. Hodges, 1612), RSTC 1601.5. 

3. The best-known EngHsh version of the story of Francesco Spiera is Nathaniel Bacon's A 
Relation of the Fearful Estate of Francis Spira, published in London in 1638 and in multiple 
editions thereafter {RSTC 1177.5 ff.). This also formed the basis of shortened versions of 
the story subsequently widely issued as chap-books, for instance, An awful memorial of the 
state of Francis Spira after he turned apostate from the Protestant Church to Popery 
(Falkirk: T Johnson, 1815). Alexandra Walsham shows the tenacity and effects of the Spiera 
myth in England {Providence in Early Modem England [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 
1999], pp. 86, 326-27). 

4. Matteo Gribaldi, Historia de quodam [F Spira J quem hostes Evangelii in Italia coegerunt 
abiicere cognitam veritatem (Padua, 1549); the place of publication is false. The English 
translation that followed immediately was entitled A Notable and Marvailous Epistle, trans. 
E. A. [Edward AgHonby] (Worcester: J. Oswen, 1550), RSTC 12365. All subsequent 
references to Gribaldi will be to this version. Next from the continental presses was a 
collection of accounts edited by Caelio Secundo Curione: Francisci Spierae qui quod 
susceptam semel Evangelicae veritatis professionem abnegasset (Basel, 1550). This 
includes pieces by Gribaldi, Pier Paolo Vergerio, Sigismund Gelous "from Transylvania" 
and Henry Scrymgeour, a Scottish Protestant from St. Andrews. Prefaces to the Curio 
collection are by John Calvin and Martin Borrhaus, and there are also six letters purporting 
to be from eye-witnesses. The best-known account was by Vergerio, La historia di M. F 
Spiera, il quale per havere in varii modi negata la conosciuta verita dell'Evangelio casco 
in una misera desperatione (ed. P. P. Vergerio [Basel, 1551]). 

5. Direct influence cannot be proved, but knowledge and impact were immediate. See, for 
instance, Hugh Latimer, Sermons, ed. George Elwes Corrie, Parker Society, 2 vols. 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844), 1: 425, and M. A. Overell, "Edwardian 
Court Humanism and // Benefico di Cristo," in Reassessing Tudor Humanism, ed. Jonathan 
Woolfson (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, forthcoming). For background 
on the Italian Reformation, see Sylvana Seidel Menchi, "Italy," in The Reformation in a 
National Context, ed. Bob Scribner, Roy Porter and Mikulâs Teich (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1 994), pp. 1 8 1-96; also Euan Cameron, "Italy," in The Early Reformation 
in Europe, ed. Andrew Pettegree (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), pp. 
189-212. For the Spiera story in the context of "Renaissance self-fashioning," see John 



M. A. Overell / The Reformation of Death in Italy and England, circa 1550 / 17 



Martin, "Inventing Sincerity, Refashioning Prudence: The Discovery of the Individual in 
Renaissance Europe," American Historical Review 102 (1997): 1309-42, esp. 1321-22. 

6. The original, Tractatus or Speculum artis bene moriendi, appeared between 1414 and 1418 
and circulated widely in manuscript. The English version is reprinted in The Boke of the 
Crafte ofDyinge, in Yorkshire Writers: Richard Rolle ofHampole and his Followers, ed. 
Carl Horstmann (London: Swan Sonnenschein, 1896). The famous abridged version, with 
woodcuts, usually known as the Ars Moriendi, is in a facsimile edition, Ar^ Moriendi, editio 
princeps, circa 1450, a reproduction of the copy in the British Museum, ed. W. H. Rylands 
(London: Wyman, 1 88 1 ); see also RSTC 786-92. For detail of Italian and Enghsh versions, 
see Sister Mary Catherine O'Connor, The Art of Dying Well: The Development of the Ars 
Moriendi (1942; rpt. New York: AMS Press, 1966), pp. 157-67, 178-79. See also Nancy 
Lee Beaty, The Craft of Dying: A Study in the Literary Tradition of the Ars Moriendi in 
England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), and David W. Atkinson, "The English 
ars moriendi: Its Protestant Transformation," Renaissance and Reformation 18.1 (1982): 
1-10. 

7. Christopher Hill, i4 Turbulent, Seditious and Factious People: John Bunyan and His Church 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 185; John Staniewski, The Persecutory Imagination 
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp. 37-39. 

8. Massimo Firpo and Dario Marcatto, eds., Ilprocesso inquisitoriale del cardinal Giovanni 
Morone (Rome: Instituto storico per l'età modema e contemporanea, 1981-89), 2: 465. All 
translations are by the author unless otherwise stated. See also M. A. Overell, 'The 
Exploitation of Francesco Spiera," Sixteenth Century Journal 26 (1995): 619-37, esp. 
622nl2. 

9. Overell, "Spiera," p. 623. 

10. Ibid. , p. 625. David Gentilcore's work on contemporary Italian states of mind is a fascinating 
and relevant study ("The Fear of Disease and the Disease of Fear," in Fear in Early Modem 
Society, ed. William Naphy and Penny Roberts [Manchester: Manchester University Press, 
1997], pp. 184-209). 

11. Gribaldi, sig. Bvi. 

12. See Vergerio, La Historia, fol. 1 1^; Gribaldi, sig. Àviii; and Nardini's deposition, cited by 
Giuseppe De Leva, Degli Eretici di Cittadella (Venice: Grimaldo, 1873), p. 39. 

13. Vergerio to Martin Borrhaus, 1550, cited De Leva, p. 43: "Ego Borrhae, inquit, hoc tempore 
Basilae non essem, si Spira non videssem." 

14. See M. A. Overell, "Vergerio's Anti-Nicodemite Propaganda and England: 1547-1558," 
Journal of Ecclesiastical History 52 (2000): 296-3 1 8. 

15. Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England (New Haven: 
Yale University Press, 1992), pp. 348-54. 

16. They may well have been the German Protestant students who were involved with Gribaldi 
and had protected status at Padua until well into the 1550s. For the various "nations" of the 
University of Padua, see Jonathan Woolfson, Padua and the Tudors (Cambridge: James 
Clarke, 1998), pp. 10-15. 

17. Philippe Aries, The Hour of Our Death, trans. Helen Weaver (London: Penguin Books, 
1987), pp. 303-5. 

18. Gribaldi, sig. Bii. 



18 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



19. "Thetemptationtodespair/'reproducedinDuffy (illustration 117). See also Peter Marshall, 
"Fear, Purgatory and Polemic," in Fear in Early Modem Society, ed. Naphy and Roberts, 
pp. 150-66, and O'Connor, pp. 178-79. 

20. Interestingly, these involved rejection of the idea that salvation could be earned (Beaty, p. 
21). 

21. Gribaldi, sig. Biv-v. 

22. Cited De Leva, p. 45. The account of Sigismund Gelous in Curio's collection confirms that 
three doctors were sent to Spiera, one of whom was Pietro Crassio (Curio, p. 106). In 
medieval popular belief, reception of the last rites meant abstinence from life's pleasures, 
including sex, even if recovery followed. This was not orthodox teaching but widely 
believed. So the sick man usually waited for the doctor to confirm that there was no hope 
of recovery and the time had come for the last sacraments. 

23. Curio, p. 24 (Letter 1). 

24. See Thomas N. Tentler, Sin and Confession on the Eve of the Reformation (Princeton: 
Princeton University Press, 1977), pp. 349-62; Lawrence Duggan, "Fear and Confession 
on the Eve of the Reformation," ArchivfUr Reformations geschichte 75 (1984): 153-75; 
and David Myers, "Ritual, Confession and Religion in Sixteenth Century Germany," A/r/wV 
fur Reformationsgeschichte 89 (1998): 125-43. 

25. "si doleva de peccati che esso haveva fatto con I'esercitio dell'avocateria Ho commesso 

il peccato della negatione" (Vergerio, fol. 10^-11). Nardini told the Inquisition that 
Spiera's"cupidity" as a lawyer was the cause of his despair, rather than his denial of faith 
(Overell, "Spiera," p. 625). 

26. Gribaldi, sig. Bvii-viii. The phrase "the benefit of Christ," much used in Italian Reformation 
works, formed the title of its most famous book, // Beneficio di Cristo (Venice, 1 543), which 
Spiera told the Inquisition that he had read (Salvatore Caponetto, La Riforma protestante 
nelV Italia del Cinquecento [Turin: Claudiane, 1992], pp. 63-64). 

27. Gribaldi, sig. Bix-Ci. 

28. Gribaldi, sig. Bii. Christian literature contains many instances of "three times" passages 
like this one, from the story of Gethsemene onwards. Spiera's biographers are clearly 
working to a pattern rather than recording events. 

29. Gribaldi, sig. Bii. For a psychological approach, see Michael MacDonald, "'The Fearful 
Estate of Francis Spira': Narrative, Identity and Emotion in Early Modem England," 
Journal of British Studies 3\ (1992): 32-61. 

30. Gribaldi, sig. Biiii. "The hands and faces of his children were as horrible to him as the 
hangman," according to Scrymgeour's account, adapted in Simon Goulart, Admirable and 
Memorable Histories, trans. E. Grimeston (London, 1607), p. 189. 

31. The "refrigerium," the "waiting" of the dead, was found in ancient belief and had been 
adapted by Luther, but was frowned on by most other Protestants (Aries, pp. 147-48). 

32. Gribaldi, sig. Cii. 

33. For the development of predestinarian thought amongst Italian reformers, see Frank James 
III, Peter Martyr Vermigli and Predestination: The Augustinian Inheritance of an Italian 
Reformer {Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 164-85. 

34. Richard Wunderii and Gerald Broce, "The Final Moment before Death in Early Modem 
England," Sixteenth Century Journal 20 (1989): 259-75. Calvin's preface to Gribaldi's 



M. A. Overell / The Reformation of Death in Italy and England, circa 1550 / 19 



account says, succinctly, "he strangled himself (Gribaldi, sig. Aiiii). I know of no other 
evidence to support this confident summary. Calvin's dislike of Italians in general and 
Italian Nicodemites in particular makes him a prejudiced witness on this point. According 
to Gribaldi's own account, Spiera "espied a woodknife, lying upon the table which, by and 
by, he snatched to sticke himself (Gribaldi, sigs. Ciii-Ciiij). The dagger and the cord are 
part of the traditional emblematics of despair. 

35. Curio, p. 7. 

36. Dermot Fenlon, Heresy and Obedience in Tridentine Italy: Cardinal Pole and the Counter- 
Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), esp. pp. 1-99, provides lucid 
insights into the complexities of the Italian "evangelical" movement. For two recent studies 
of the prominent part played by Reginald Pole, see Thomas F. Mayer, Reginald Pole, Prince 
and Prophet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 103-74, and "A Reluc- 
tant Author: Cardinal Pole and His Manuscripts," Transactions of the American Philosoph- 
ical Society 89.4 (1999): 1-6. 

37. Thomas Becon, The Sicke Man's Salve. Wherein faithful Christians may learne both how 
to behave themselves paciently and thankfully in tyme of sickness (London: J. Day, 1561), 
RSTC 1757. Although the work was composed before 1553, Becon was imprisoned until 
1 554, and this is the earliest extant edition. References are to the version included in The 
Worckes of Thomas Becon, 3 vols. (London: J. Day, 1563-64), vol. 2, RSTC 1710. For 
Becon's life see Derrick S. Bailey, Thomas Becon and the Reformation in the Church of 
England (Edindurgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1952). Other comparable literature translated and 
printed around the same time includes Otto Werdmueller, A most frutefull, pithy e and 
learned treatise how a christen ma(n) ought to behave himself in danger of death, trans, 
(anonymously) by Miles Coverdale, which was bound together with An exhortation by the 
Lady Jane Grey the night before she died ([Wesel: H. Singleton (?), 1555]), RSTC 25251. 
The translation is reprinted in Miles Coverdale, Remains, ed. George Pearson, Parker 
Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1846), pp. 37-132. 

38. Becon, fol. 279\ cited Beaty, p. 115. 

39. The Two Liturgies, A.D. 1549 and A.D. 1552, etc., ed. Joseph Ketley, Parker Society 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844), pp. 136 and 312. Later, even greater 
religious acumen was expected; these statements of faith were rejected as a soft option by 
William Perkins, and extempore declaration of individual faith was required instead (Ralph 
Houlbrooke, "The Puritan Deathbed, C.1560-c.l660," in The Culture of English Puritan- 
ism: 1560-1700, ed. Christopher Durston and Jacqueline Eales [Houndmills, Basingstoke, 
Hampshire: Macmillan, 1996], pp. 122-44, esp. 132). 

40. TwoUturgies,p. \36 (1549). 

41. Cited Beaty, p. 130. 

42. Neighbours could read "devout Histories and devout praiers in which he [the dying man] 
delyted most when he was in hele" (Tractatus, cited Beaty, p. 28). 

43. Helen White, The Tudor Books of Private Devotion (Madison: University of Wisconsin 
Press, 1951), p. 139; Beaty, pp. 128-30. 

44. The Queens College, Oxford Ms. 390, "Diary of Thomas Crossfield," fol. 38^, cited by 
David Cressy, Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life Cycle in Tudor and 
Stuart England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 390; Judith Maltby, Prayer 
Book and People in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1998), p. 50. 



20 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



45. Compare Erasmus's comment on "spiritual friends" at the deathbed: ". . . at their last breath 
so tormented by ignorant fools that they give up the ghost almost in despair" ("The 
Shipwreck," Colloquies of Erasmus, trans. Craig R. Thompson [Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1965], pp. 139-46, cited Aries, p. 303). The problems of the social deathbed 
had a long history. 

46. See, e.g., "The cry of the poor for the Earl of Huntingdon," (1596; rpt. Cressy, p. 391). 

47. Becon, fol. 261^-63^, cited Beaty, p. 148. 

48. For the continuation of visions of devils and fear of damnation in Protestantism, see 
Houlbrooke, "Puritan Deathbed," p. 136; Marshall, who points out that the Protestant 
objective "was not to restore society to a condition of being at ease with itself ("Fear, 
Purgatory and Polemic," p. 161); David Stannard, The Puritan Way of Death (New York: 
Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 79; and Bodleian Library, Ms. Top. Camb. E.5, "Diary 
of William Johnson 1652-63," fol. 57, cited Cressy, p. 392. 

49. Becon, fol. 240, cited Beaty, p. 135. This may be partly because the sacraments are not 
prominent in the Ars Moriendi. Neighbours are advised to get the priest, and he is there 
prominently in the woodcuts, but it has been suggested that the work was written principally 
for those who died without the sacraments (John McNeill, A History of the Cure of Souls 
[New York: Harper, 1951], p. 159, cited Beaty, p. 27; Houlbrooke, "Puritan Deathbed," pp. 
124, 135). 

50. Becon, fol. 264-65^, cited Beaty, p. 139. 

51. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Thomas Cranmer: A Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 
1996), p. 614. 

52. Two Liturgies, p. 3 1 6 ( 1 552). Peter Martyr Vermigli, one of the Italian reformers invited by 
Cranmer, influenced the drafting of this rubric. See F. E. Brightman, The English Rite, 2 
vols. (London: Rivingtons, 1915), vol. 1, p. cliv, 2: 828, 842-43; Alan Beesley, "An 
Unpublished Source of the Book of Common Prayer: Peter Martyr Vermigli's ' Adhortatio 
ad Coenam Domini Mysticam,'" Journal of Ecclesiastical History 19 (1968): 83-88; and 
Duffy, p. 474. 

53. Local sources show that those concemed tried hard to arrange things so that the dying could 
still have communion (Maltby, pp. 49-50). 

54. Wunderli and Broce, p. 265. 

55. Two Liturgies, p. 312 (1552). 

56. Becon, fol. 264-70^, cited Beaty, p. 139. 

57. Latimer, 1: 425. 

58. For comment on the long-term influences of the Spiera story in literature, see Celesta Wine, 
"NathanielWood's'ConflictofConscience,'"PA/M 50(1935): 661-78;Lily B.Campbell, 
"'Doctor Faustus': A Case of Conscience," PMLA 67 (1952): 219-39; David Renaker, 
"Bunyan's Misattribution to Francis Spira of a Remark by Nathaniel Bacon," Notes and 
Queries ns 25 (1978): 25; and Overell, "Spiera," pp. 634-35. On the appearance of the 
Spiera tale in popular literature, see Margaret Spufford, Small Books and Pleasant Histo- 
ries: Popular Fiction and its Readership in Early Modem England (London: Methuen, 
1981), p. 207, and Walsham, pp. 86, 326-27. 

59. Ralph Houlbrooke, Death, Religion and the Family in England, 1480-1750 (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 154; Cressy, p. 383. A distinct change in the direction of 



M. A. Overell / The Reformation of Death in Italy and England, circa 1550 / 21 



predestinarian belief was observable in Burial Service of the 1 552 Prayer Book, but it was 
not complete, as was shown by later protests of the Calvinists (Clare Gittings, Death, Burial 
and the Individual in Early Modem England [Lx)ndon: Croom Helm, 1984], p. 41). 

60. "Neither Purgatory, nor prayer nor any other after helps can be available for the party 
departed" (Edwin Sandys, Sermons, ed. John Ayre, Parker Society [Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1841], pp. 162-63). Cf. Duffy, p. 376; "I commend unto you the souls 
departed" (Latimer, 1 : 217 and 284, cited MacCulloch, p. 509), and Becon, fol. 263^, cited 
Beaty, pp. 132-33. By contrast, the Spanish were absolutely clear that purgatory would be 
their destination after death (Carlos Eire, From Madrid to Purgatory [Cambridge: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1 995], pp. 25 1 , 520). 

61. This idea echoed the ancient sleep of the dead but was different from Luther's sleeping of 
souls. In this Protestant variation on the sleep motif, the elect soul went to heaven 
immediately but the body remained in the "dormitory" until the general resurrection; see 
Cressy, pp. 385-88; David Dymond, "God's Disputed Acre," Journal of Ecclesiastical 
History 50 (1999): 464-97, esp. 466; and Nicholas Tyacke, "Anglican Attitudes," Journal 
of British Studies 35 (1 996): 1 39-67, esp. 147. On mature Protestant "rhetorical diffidence" 
about the destination of the dead, see Peter Marshall, "Geographies of the Afterlife in Tudor 
and Early Stuart England," in The Place of the Dead: Death and Remembrance in Late 
Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Bruce Gordon and Peter Marshall (Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 110-30, esp. 117. This invaluable collection 
appeared after the present article was completed. 

62. Thomas Cranmer, Certain Sermons or Homilies (1547) and A Homily against Disobedience 
and Wilful Rebellion (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), p. 155. 

63. Two Liturgies, pp. 142 and 145 (for 1549 Prayer Book) and pp. 317 and 319 (for 1552 
Prayer Book); John 5:24. 

64. Cressy, p. 388. 



« Aux trésors dissipez 
l'on cognoist le malfaict »^ : 
Hiérarchie sociale et transgression 
des ordonnances somptuaires en 

France, 1543-1606 



Pascal Bastien 



Summary: By comparing the eleven sumptuary laws enacted between the 
reigns of François I and Henri IV, the author intends to demonstrate that 
their iterative character, which at first glance seems a sign of their 
ineffectiveness, is in fact the expression of a disequilibrium between the 
claims of the nobility and the monarchical absolutist ideal. The evolution 
of the sumptuary discourse signals the formation of a new manner of 
s elf- representation, as well as the arising power struggle between the king 
and his subjects. 

L'enregistrement croissant des ordonnances royales régularisant le luxe 
des habits depuis la seconde moitié du XVP siècle permet généralement 
aux historiens d'illustrer la transformation fondamentale que connurent la 
culture matérielle et les sensibilités de l'apparence dans la France de la 
Renaissance. Dynamisée par la relative prospérité économique du premier 
XVP siècle^, la Renaissance fit ainsi du corps vêtu une rhétorique visuelle 
du discours sociaP, les ordonnances somptuaires posant des normes et des 
règles vestimentaires pour définir dans le corps du royaume l'ordre idéal de 
la royauté. Cette situation, admise et démontrée depuis longtemps, n'est 
certes pas contredite par les travaux les plus récents sur la période"^ ; pourtant, 
argument plutôt qu'objet de la recherche historique, les lois somptuaires, 
étouffées sous d'autres préoccupations, restent dans l'historiographie ac- 
tuelle peu étudiées pour ce qu'elles sont^. 

En effet, les objectifs de cette législation ne sont peut-être pas aussi 
simples qu'on pourrait à prime abord le penser. On explique habituellement 
l'enregistrement des lois somptuaires en rappelant le nombre important des 
remontrances et des diatribes imprimées qui leur sont parallèles, comme les 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 4 ( 1 999) /23 



24 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



occasionnels, les histoires tragiques et les autres discours moralisateurs 
consacrés à la modestie des habits. Or, il paraît nécessaire de souligner que 
les ordonnances somptuaires enregistrées pendant tout le XVP siècle ne 
firent jamais appel à des considérations morales pour justifier leurs interdic- 
tions^. C'était en effet les matériaux et les étoffes du vêtement qu'elles 
proscrivaient, et jamais la mode : de nombreux discours, remontrances et 
instructions condamnèrent violemment les braguettes démesurées et les 
décolletés profonds, alors qu'aucune loi ne les interdisait. Le roi s'attaquait au 
luxe, non à la lubricité : cette seule constatation permet peut-être de resituer la 
problématique vestimentaire sous un nouvel angle, autre que moral. 

Cette brève étude ne s'inscrit pas dans le cadre d'une histoire du 
costume ou de l'esthétique vestimentaire ; de manière à comprendre le sens 
que purent avoir l'obéissance et la transgression au cœur de ces échanges 
entre pouvoir et représentation du pouvoir, c'est plutôt sous une inter- 
prétation socio-politique du problème vestimentaire que seront analysés les 
onze edits somptuaires enregistrés au cours du XVP siècle : soit une pre- 
mière ordonnance sous François P"" en décembre 1543, deux sous Henri II, 
en mai 1547 et mai 1549, quatre sous Charles IX, en avril 1561, juillet 1563, 
février 1565 et février 1573, deux sous Henri III, en juillet 1576 et mars 
1583, et enfin deux sous Henri IV, en juillet 1601 et novembre 1606. En 
confrontant les préambules de ces textes de loi avec diverses sources narra- 
tives (journaux et mémoires, cahiers de doléances, discours et instructions, 
et occasionnels), cette recherche entend 1) démontrer l'impact de l'ascension 
de la bourgeoisie dans l'évolution du discours somptuaire, 2) souligner 
l'inobservance généralisée des lois vestimentaires et 3) expliquer comment 
l'absolutisme du premier Bourbon s'est emparé de la législation somptuaire 
pour établir un nouveau rapport entre lui et sa noblesse. 

I. Remontrances, distinctions et législations 

Quoique Charles VIII défendît en 1485 « à tous autres qu'aux nobles de 
porter draps d'or et de soie »^, la hiérarchisation par le vêtement de la société 
médiévale paraît essentiellement s'être construite selon la disponibilité des 
capitaux plutôt que par une « taxinomie » des étoffes et des parures^ : les 
plus fortunés portaient les vêtements les plus riches, alors que les moins 
nantis n'avaient pas les moyens d'en faire autant. Le discours visant à 
réserver à la noblesse le port de vêtements somptueux apparut sans doute 
lorsque le développement de la situation économique et sociale du royaume 
ne lui en conservait plus l'exclusivité. C'est en effet au règne de François P*^ 
que François de La Noue impute, dans ses Discours politiques et militaires 
de 1587, la responsabilité de l'exhibition démesurée des richesses par les habits : 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 25 



On n'oseroit quasi comparoistre en bonne compagnie, qu'on ne soit doré comme un 
calice, plusieurs se persuadans que ils en seront davantage honnorez. (...) Ceste 
coustume-cy print origine sous le roy François premier, et s'est merveilleusement 
accreuë sous le roy Henri second. Mais depuis la depravation a esté telle, qu'on a fait 

Q 

porter aux pages et aux laquais la toile d'argent . 

En effet, quelque trois ans avant la fin de son règne, François P"" faisait 
enregistrer en décembre 1543 la première ordonnance somptuaire depuis 
celle décrétée par Charles VIII cinquante-neuf ans plus tôt. Déjà, en 1532, 
le roi avait interdit à tous ses officiers des finances, de quelque condition 
qu'ils fussent, de porter de la soie, des fourrures, des « chaînes pesans plus 
de dix escus ne bagues et pierres excédans trente escus », pour éviter que les 
caisses de TÉtat pussent être malhonnêtement sollicitées pour entretenir les 
dépenses de pareilles ostentations^^ ; cette mesure visait alors à lutter contre 
la corruption et non contre les excès vestimentaires. Or dans Tédit de 1543, 
le roi déclarait promulguer ces initiatives restrictives sur le luxe, cette fois-ci 
étendues à tous les sujets sans distinction (à l'exception certes du dauphin 
et du duc d'Orléans), parce que la bourgeoisie et la noblesse dilapidaient leur 
richesse en « habillemens tant de drap d'or, d'argent, pourfilleures, passemens, 
brodures d'or et d'argent (...) au moyen de quoi grandes sommes de deniers 
se tirent de cestuy nostre royaume, par les estrangers qui après en secourent 
et aident à nos ennemis »^^. Mesure de protectionnisme cherchant à empêcher 
une fuite de capitaux vers les coffres des ennemis du roi, François P*" 
défendait dans cette première ordonnance une logique éminemment politi- 
que puisque les autres États s'enrichissaient « de la graisse de nostre royaume ». 
Ainsi, sous peine de 1000 ecus d'amende et sous la menace de la confiscation 
des vêtements prohibés, l'édit interdisait à tous de se « vestir ny habiller 
d'aucun drap d'or, drap d'argent, toille d'or ne d'argent, pourfilleures, 
broderies, passemens d'or ne d'argent, veloux, ne soyes barrez d'or ne 
d'argent, soit en robbes, sayes, pourpoints, chausses, bordures d' habille- 
mens, ny autrement, en quelque sorte et manière que ce soit », ces produits 
étant essentiellement achetés d'Espagne, de Sicile et du Levant. Lorsque 
Henri II, dès sa montée sur le trône en 1547, reprit essentiellement la même 
ordonnance que son père, l'intention énoncée dans le préambule demeurait 
aussi politique, quoiqu'il ne reprochât pas tant la fuite des richesses hors du 
royaume qu'un usage de deniers non directement associé au fonctionnement 
de l'État : le roi craignait que le trésor de ses nobles ne se perdît en vêtements 
et parures, « au lieu de ce qu'ilz le devroient employer au service de nous et 
de la chose publique »^2, notamment dans la constitution de l'armée royale, 
fouillis d'affaires privées, de trafics et de spéculations^^. L'intervention de 
Henri II condamnait ainsi un modèle de dépense bien plus qu'un paraître 



26 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

ostentatoire. Comme celle de 1543, cette nouvelle ordonnance s'appliquait 
encore, à l'exception de la reine et de sa suite, « à toutes personnes de noz 
royaume, pays, terres, et seigneuries, soyent hommes ou femmes, de quelque 
qualité, estât ou condition qu'ils soyent ». Contrairement à l'édit de Charles 
Vni, ces deux ordonnances interdisaient donc aux nobles comme aux 
bourgeois de dilapider leurs richesses dans les dépenses vestimentaires, 
laissant à la famille royale l'exclusivité des soies cramoisies et des broderies 
d'or et d'argent. Cette justice somptuaire se voulait donc totale et touchait 
toutes les classes de la société, laissant alors au roi et à son entourage direct 
le monopole de l'ostentation. 

Pourtant, l'enregistrement en juillet 1549 d'une nouvelle ordonnance 
somptuaire, la troisième en six ans, soulignait clairement le peu de succès 
des mesures édictées les années précédentes : 

[C]ombien que lesdictes ordonnances et deffences ayent esté publiées par tout ou besoing 
estoit, de sorte que nul n'en ayt peu prétendre cause d'ignorance, si est ce que de present 
elles sont mal observées, et comme quasi contemnees, et non seulement continuent mais 
augmentent de jour à autre telles excessives superfluitez d'habillemens et accoustremens 
entre gentils hommes, dames et damoiselles, gens d'église et de justice, et autres hommes 
et femmes de toutes estats . 

Ainsi fâché de cet échec, le roi reprenait et complétait la précédente loi 
de 1547 pour formuler une ordonnance qui allait devenir pendant tout le 
siècle le modèle qui inspira les suivantes. Or, le préambule et les articles de 
la loi de 1 549 énonçaient une politique nouvelle à ce qui avait été promulguée 
plus tôt : l'ordonnance développait alors avec précision les privilèges 
d'exemptions (absents, à l'exception des fils de France, des lois de 1543 et 
1547) et déclarait, avant même l'argument politique (c'est-à-dire éviter 
d'enrichir l'ennemi par le commerce des biens de luxe venant de l'étranger), 
la nécessité sociale de rétablir une hiérarchie manifeste dans le corps social 
du royaume. Sans ces restrictions en effet « l'on ne peut choisir ne discerner 
les uns d'avec les autres », et si le roi réservait certaines dispenses, « comme 
il est tresraisonnable », aux princes et princesses, aux demoiselles de la suite 
de la reine et à « tous ceux qui sont ordinaires au près de nostre personne, et 
de nostre conseil privé, qui iront accoustrez et habillez selon et ainsi qu'ilz 
ont accoustumé », l'ordonnance développait le règlement vestimentaire 
comme il ne l'avait jamais été auparavant. Ce n'est qu'à partir de cet édit 
que le vêtement se posait par la loi comme l'instrument ségrégatif le plus 
important de l'espace social, le pouvoir tentant ainsi de construire et imposer 
une éthique somptuaire pour éviter qu'on pût « prendre et changer de nouvel 
estât » à chaque chemise'^. Ni l'ordonnance de 1543 ni celle de 1547 
n'insistaient sur cet impératif social. L'initiative est, en ce sens, fondamen- 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 27 



taie. La loi de juillet 1549, à laquelle devait s'ajouter en octobre de la même 
année une clause supplémentaire répondant aux ambiguïtés qu'elle suscitait, 
fut-elle suivie de quelque effet ? On peut certes douter que les dix années 
qui s'écoulèrent entre le dernier édit de Henri II et le premier de Charles IX, 
en 1561, furent une période de sobriété vestimentaire et de respect des lois 
somptuaires. La réunion des états généraux après la mort de François II peut 
apparemment confirmer ce sentiment. 

Charles IX proclama quatre ordonnances somptuaires pendant son 
règne, lesquelles furent certainement les plus sévères de la période. En 1561 
et 1563, les seules menaces de peine afflictive de toute la législation vesti- 
mentaire du siècle y étaient prescrites, soit le fouet pour les tailleurs, 
brodeurs et chaussetiers récidivistes (producteurs, et non consommateurs, 
du vêtement interdit). Or le préambule de l'ordonnance de 1561^^, enregis- 
trée non tant de son initiative que « par les plaintes, doléances et remons- 
trances que nous ont faictes nos subjectz es estatz dernièrement tenuz par 
nous en nostre ville d'Orléans », ne répondait peut-être pas tant aux impé- 
ratifs législatifs d'un nouvel avènement qu'aux pressions de la noblesse 
profondément inquiétée de la récente mobilité sociale de la bourgeoisie. 

L'on peut ainsi lire dans les cahiers de remontrances des états d'Orléans 
de 1560 que les trois ordres se plaignirent conjointement des débordements 
vestimentaires de la bourgeoisie en pleine ascension. Le clergé déclarait 
alors : « Lui [au roi] plaise faire entretenir l'édit fait par le roi Henry son 
père sur la différence des habits des nobles, et gens du tiers état » ^^. De même 
la noblesse réclamait que : « Ordonnera Sa Majesté que les edits et ordon- 
nances faites sur la superfluité et discrétion des accoutremens soient obser- 
vés plus étroitement, encore plus éclaircis de qualité d'état et d'autre »^^. 
Et enfin, paradoxalement, le Tiers Etat lui-même soutenait que : 

En ce royaume, les gens du tiers-état et les marchands artisans et mécaniques, leurs 
femmes et enfans font telles dépenses superflues en habits et vêtemens qu'ils sont 
contrains, pour entretenir ladite superfluité d'habits, mal user en leurs états et 
marchandises et survendre leurs manufactures. A cette cause, seroit bon d'ordonner que 

19 

toute sorte de soie sur soie soient défendus aux dessusdits . 

À cette réunion des états généraux tous demandaient au souverain, 
même la bourgeoisie, de condamner les excès de cette dernière : le Tiers État 
voulait qu'on réprime le luxe des artisans^^, la noblesse le luxe des bour- 
geois. Les états généraux réclamaient ainsi, poMr la première fois y l'enregis- 
trement de lois somptuaires pour contraindre les roturiers à respecter leur 
condition ; en effet, si on peut penser que l'ordonnance de 1485 de Charles 
VIII répondait aux remontrances des états de Tours, aucun article des cahiers 
de doléances de 1484^^ ne mentionna ou ne demanda au souverain une 



28 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

réforme vestimentaire. Pourquoi donc attendre la réunion d'Orléans pour ce 
faire ? Pourquoi Tannée 1560 vit-elle l'inquiétude somptuaire s'exprimer ? 

La France des années 1557-1559 fut secouée par une grave crise 
financière, causée d'abord par les énormes dépenses relatives aux guerres 
d'Italie, puis par l'arrivée incontrôlée en Europe des métaux précieux en 
provenance du Pérou. Deux groupes sociaux subirent les conséquences de 
ces bouleversements économiques : la paysannerie et la noblesse. Les bour- 
geois avaient su profiter des conjonctures pour faire fructifier leur capital 
(que les paysans ne possédaient pas) par le commerce (auquel la noblesse, 
au risque de déroger à sa qualité, n'avait pas le droit de recourir). L'écart 
social entre la noblesse et la bourgeoisie tendait donc à se rétrécir progres- 
sivement par leur richesse respective (et par conséquent par la somptuosité 
de leurs vêtements), d'où les doléances aux états d'Orléans pour restreindre 
le luxe à ceux auxquels la naissance donnait droit. 

Prononcée en début de règne, l'ordonnance de 1561 permettait certes 
quelques dispenses pour les occasions spéciales liées aux célébrations 
royales : « Sont exceptez et reservez de ceste nostre présente ordonnance, 
les jours que ferons nostre entree en la ville de Reims, celuy de nostre sacre, 
et celuy de nostre entree que nous espérons faire en nostre ville de Paris, 
esquelz trois jours seulement nous permettons l'usage de toutes sortes 
d'abitz ». Dans ces moments fondamentaux pour la représentation du pou- 
voir royal, aucun luxe n'était défendu et tous devaient célébrer avec faste et 
magnificence la puissance du nouveau souverain. Aussi, si les arguments 
économiques individuels (« grand partie de ceux qui portent lesdictz habitz 
les suracheptent, d'autant qu'ilz ne les payent comptant, et pour le payement 
d'iceux sont après leurs biens saisiz, qui leur apportent doubles frais ») puis 
nationaux (« pour l'achapt d'iceux plusieurs grandes sommes de deniers se 
transportent hors nostre Royaume ») constituaient d'importantes justifica- 
tions à l'enregistrement de l'ordonnance, l'urgence de rétablir et de rendre 
visible la différence de pouvoir et de naissance entre les sujets (« il s'en 
trouve peu qui vueillent avoir égard à leurs estatz, qualitez, facultez et 
pouvoirs ») représentait peut-être le fondement véritable de la loi. 

Le texte de 1561 reprenait essentiellement le contenu de l'ordonnance 
de 1549 ; pareillement le préambule du nouvel édit de 1563^^ restait le même 
que le précédent, puisque l'ordonnance répétait article par article « les 
mesmes termes et poincts d'icelle nostredicte Ordonnance ». Cependant s'y 
ajoutait un cuisant constat d'échec entre l'introduction proprement dite et 
les différents articles qu'elle produisait. « Nous aurions (...) des le vingt- 
deuxième jour d'Avril mil cinq cens soixante un après Pasques faict là dessus 
certains bons articles d'ordonnance, laquelle au moyen des troubles incon- 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 29 



tinent après survenus [la première guerre de religion], est demeurée sans 
execution. [A]u contraire il se voit la despense et superfluité desdicts habits 
estre de beaucoup augmentée ». Dans sa troisième loi somptuaire en 1565, 
Charles IX condamnait encore l'obstination d'enfreindre par l'apparat l'idéo- 
logie sociale déclarée par le pouvoir : 

Nous avons (...) suffisamment exprimé et déclaré nostre intention et vouloir sur l'ordre 
qu'entendions estre estably, et donné parmi nos subjects à la modestie des habillemens 
qu'ils auroyent à user et porter selon leurs estais et qualitez, (...) de sorte que ne pouvez 
en cela ignorer nostre intention, ny les causes et mérites d'icelles nosdictes Ordonnances, 
tant considerable, qu'il n'a esté et n'est autrement besoin les vous repeter. (...) 
Neantmoins tant s'en faut qu'elles ayent esté observées comme elles devoyent, qu'au 
contraire la superflue et desmesuree despense se declaire et monstre pour le present plus 
que jamais augmentée et accreue parmi nosdicts subjects . 

La désobéissance et le désordre des hiérarchies sociales constituaient ici la 
raison fondamentale pour laquelle l'édit de 1565 était enregistré, l'ordon- 
nance déclarant paradoxalement, par mesure royale, l'indiscutable incapa- 
cité du pouvoir à se faire obéir. 

En 1568, Jean Bodin témoignait, dans sa réponse à M. de Malestroit, 
que les mesures décrétées à répétition par les souverains restaient toujours 
sans effet : « On a fait de beaux editz, mais ils ne servent de rien, car pource 
qu'on porte à la cour ce qui est défendu, on en portera partout »^^. Bodin 
expliquait les causes de la profonde crise économique du royaume en 
insistant sur l'imitation inconsidérée par les sujets des mœurs et des habi- 
tudes de la cour : tous, finalement, cherchaient à élever leur condition en 
suivant les dépenses vestimentaires de la cour. Jean Duret regrettait aussi en 
1572, dans son Traicté des peines et amandes, la confusion des qualités et 
le non-respect des ordonnances. L'habit de soie cramoisi « n'est pas assez 
sumptueux pour les plus petits, tant nous sommes parvenuz en temps débordé 
et dissolu »^^. « Les plus petits », encore, étaient ceux à qui la représentation 
du pouvoir ne seyait pas. En 1573 Charles IX devait donc encore réprouver, 
dans une nouvelle ordonnance, ses « sujects de tous sexes, aages et qualitez, 
combien qu'ils en receussent le premier et plus evident profit, [qui] se sont 
neantmoins trouvez si peu enclins et mal affectionnez que nous sommes 
contraincts de dire, avec extreme desplaisir, qu'au lieu d'obéissance il ne s'y 
est veu que mespris et contentement »^^, revenant ensuite successivement 
aux traditionnelles motivations politique, sociale et économique telles 
qu'elles avaient été énoncées ponctuellement dans les préambules des autres 
edits. Le pouvoir royal accumulait ainsi, ordonnance après ordonnance, les 
aveux d'impuissance. 



30 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

II. Transgression et répression 

L'appel à T humilité vestimentaire, vraisemblablement évoqué par T occur- 
rence des vocables clairement péjoratifs de « sumptuositez » et « superflui- 
tez » dans le texte des ordonnances, aurait peut-être pu trouver un certain 
écho si la modestie n'avait pas été une affaire de rang, donc de hiérarchie 
sociale (quoique l'apparente inefficacité des lois de 1543 et 1547 ne puisse 
le confirmer). Dans ses Discours sur les duels, Brantôme écrivait qu'à 
Bayonne, où le jeune Charles IX s'était arrêté pour s'entretenir avec la reine 
d'Espagne^^, Catherine de Médicis avait envoyé Monsieur (futur Henri III) 
au devant de la souveraine, accompagné de nombreux seigneurs dont l'allure 
devait manifester aux Espagnols la puissance et la richesse du royaume de 
France : « Mais les uns estoient plus couverts et enrichis que les autres ; c'est 
à sçavoir, ceux des princes, ducs, marquis, comtes, chevalliers de l'ordre et 
capitaines de gensd' armes estoient ainsi quasi tous pareils. Ceux des gen- 
tilshommes de la chambre du roy et de Monsieur estoient moindres ; et ceux 
des gentilshommes servans encore moindres ». Or, cette hiérarchie inférée 
par des vêtements fournis par le roi ne plut évidemment pas à ceux qui se 
trouvaient aux échelons inférieurs. Ainsi le seigneur de Lignerolles, gentil- 
homme de la chambre du roi et de Monsieur, s'indigna : « Quand ce vint au 
despartement desdicts habillemens, et que l'on ne luy en donna que de ceux 
des gentilshommes de la chambre, il le reffusa tout à plat, et le renvoya bien 
loing sans en vouloir nullement prendre, disant qu'il en méritoit aussi bien 
un des beaux et riches, qu'aucuns qui en avoient eu »2^. Cette résistance tout 
à fait prévisible du seigneur de Lignerolles porte évidemment le même sens 
que les innombrables querelles de préséance qui ont constamment secoué 
l'organisation de la liturgie des entrées princières, du sacre, des obsèques et 
des lits de justice^^. Tout pouvoir est une question de hiérarchie et il n'est 
donc pas surprenant que le discours somptuaire et la pratique vestimentaire 
s'opposèrent complètement. L'iconographie paraît d'ailleurs clairement le 
montrer. Les portraits de princes comme des grands bourgeois peints par les 
Clouet représentent des personnages tout en majesté, élégants et riches, dans 
leurs appareils de brillante ostentation^^. Un autre exemple de cette réalité 
reste sans doute celui du bourreau qui, infâme et officiellement ostracise par 
la nature de sa professions^ demeure néanmoins représenté, dans l'art 
médiévaP^ comme dans celui de la Renaissance, revêtu d'habits compara- 
bles à ceux des plus nobles officiers de justice : l'exécuteur héritant des 
vêtements du condamné, il n'est en ce sens pas étonnant qu'il pût porter les 
habits de ceux qu'il avait précédemment mis à mort^^. Du peu de respect des 
lois vestimentaires, il n'y a apparemment pas de doute. 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 31 



Cependant, le règne d'Henri III pose de fascinants paradoxes sur l'en- 
registrement et la transgression de la législation somptuaire. En même temps 
qu'une véritable réflexion politique allait se constituer pour la restauration 
d'une autorité royale dangereusement fragilisée par les guerres civiles^^, la 
cour d'Henri III suscita de virulentes critiques pour sa démonstration d'un 
faste vestimentaire tout à fait effréné et ce, au cœur même d'une période qui 
fut peut-être, dans le siècle, celle qui chercha à réprimer avec le plus de force 
les écarts aux lois somptuaires. En réponse à la dernière ordonnance de 
Charles IX, une Catéchèse et Instruction touchant les Ornemens, Vestemens, 
et parures des femmes Chrestiennes^^ était déjà publiée ; puis, quelque temps 
après l'enregistrement du premier édit somptuaire de Henri III, un Bref et 
utile discours sur l'immodestie et superfluùé d'habits^^ était également 
imprimé. Les publications morales se succédèrent alors, avec la femme 
comme cible privilégiée. 

En 1581 François-Antoine Estienne faisait publier sa sévère Remons- 
trance charitable aux Dames et Damoyselles de France où il développait un 
modèle religieux pour décrier l'immodestie flamboyante « de noz Fran- 
coises Dames »^^. En 1582, un Discours miraculeux, inouy et epouventable 
était vendu à Paris : une jeune fille d'Anvers s'y faisait étrangler par le 
Diable, puis transformer en chat noir pour avoir trop vaniteusement convoité 
des « habits et collez à fraize goderonnez à la nouvelle mode » ; l'auteur 
concluait son histoire tragique par un appel à la piété et à la modestie 
féminines, suivant par là la morale du livret de F.-A. Estienne^^. Dans la 
pièce liminaire des Nouvelles histoires tant tragiques que comiques de Vérité 
Habanc, l'auteur se saisissait du Discours miraculeux pour fustiger à nou- 
veau le libertinage des femmes, qu'il condamnait avec violence parce 
qu'elles étaient responsables de toutes les faiblesses des hommes : 

Mais ô chiennes effrontées ou de fait ou de volonté, ne considérez- vous pas qu'il faudra 
en fin que ceste charonne soit rongée des vers, et ce neantmoins vous en faites vostre 
souverain bien ? Si vous estiez bien sages, il vous souviendroit que le diable a tordu le 
col à une de voz compagnes en la ville d'Anvers, et lors vous quitteriez ces mondanitez' . 

A ces discours contre l'obscénité féminine s'ajoutent les pamphlets 
particulièrement nombreux et cinglants contre Henri et ses favoris, qui 
dénonçaient avec violence les dissolutions de leur souverain par la descrip- 
tion du vice, du luxe, de la féminité et des travestissements du roi. Nous ne 
reprendrons pas la liste de ces écrits satirico-politiques, d'autres chercheurs 
l'ayant déjà fort bien fait"*^. Et comme le prince et sa cour restaient toujours 
le modèle pour tous les sujets du royaume, il n'est pas surprenant qu'en 1577 
l'ambassadeur vénitien Lippomano s'étonnât des dépenses consacrées au 
luxe vestimentaire à Paris : « Les changements de costumes usités parmi les 



32 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

jeunes gens exigent des dépenses considérables en draps de laine, en draps 
d'or et de soie. Un homme de la cour n'est pas estimé riche s'il n'a pas 
vingt-cinq à trente habillements de différentes façons, et il doit en changer 
tous les jours »'^^ 

Le règne d'Henri III paraît ainsi avoir produit le plus grand nombre de 
textes se scandalisant de l'extravagance des habits. La femme d'une part, 
mais également le roi, les courtisans et tous ceux qui cherchaient à s'associer 
au pouvoir, révélaient un désordre moral, social et politique non seulement 
perçu dans l'exubérance du roi mais aussi dans la disparition de l'équilibre 
visuel de la structure hiérarchique de la société. N'est-il d'ailleurs pas 
possible que le contexte des ordonnances somptuaires du XVP siècle fût ce 
baroque qui caractérisait les occasionnels et les histoires tragiques, c'est-à- 
dire ce profond sentiment d'instabilité du monde 1^^ 

Car cette période de quinze années, la plus incisive et la plus insistante 
dans sa critique des mœurs et des usages vestimentaires immodérés des 
Français, fut aussi celle où la législation somptuaire se distingua sensible- 
ment de celle des edits précédents. Il paraît en effet essentiel de souligner 
que l'argument religieux n'apparaît, dans l'ensemble des onze ordonnances 
enregistrées entre les règnes de François P^ et Henri IV, qu'une seule fois, 
soit sous le règne d'Henri III : il est donc improbable, tout au moins en ce 
qui concerne le XVP siècle, que l'enregistrement des lois somptuaires ait 
répondu à la volonté du souverain de se concilier en début de règne la faveur 
divine, presque jamais évoquée dans les préambules. En effet, si en décembre 
1485 Charles VIII interdisait aux roturiers l'usage de certaines catégories 
d'étoffes puisque de « tels abus sont desplaisans à Dieu nostre créateur », 
Henri III fut le seul souverain du XVP siècle à s'appuyer sur le sacré pour 
légitimer les lois somptuaires. Après s'être référé en 1576 aux « plusieurs 
belles et sainctes Ordonnances » de ces prédécesseurs"^^, il déclarait en 1 583, 
au cœur d'une argumentation économique et sociale, qu'en l'immodestie des 
habits « Dieu y est grandement offensé, dont nous portons le plus de 
desplaisir »^. Jusqu'à Henri III, Dieu n'intervenait que dans l'argumenta- 
tion des pamphlets et des discours moralisateurs ; les lois somptuaires 
évoquaient peut-être l'humilité, vertu chrétienne, mais n'invitaient jamais à 
la crainte de Dieu ni ne menaçaient de la colère divine. La piété excessive 
que l'on reprocha souvent au roi aurait-elle été à l'origine de cette précision 
dans le texte de 1583 ? Peut-on plutôt expliquer l'étonnante volonté de 
répression somptuaire du roi, qu'il devait manifester quelques mois après la 
promulgation de cet édit, comme une réaction indirecte, ou un déplacement 
compensatoire, à la critique et aux pamphlets qui lui étaient adressés ? Le 
13 novembre 1583, rapportait Pierre de l'Estoile, 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 33 



le prévost de 1' hostel et ses archers prirent à Paris prisonnières cinquante ou soixante 
que damoiselles, que bourgeoises, contrevenans en habits et bagues à l'édit de la 
réformation des habits, sept ou huit mois auparavant publié ; et les constituèrent 
prisonnières au fort l'Evesque et autres prisons fermées, où elles couchèrent, quelque 
remonstrance et offre de les cautionner et paier les amandes encourues que peussent faire 
les parens et maris, qui fut une rigoeur extraordinaire et excessive, veu que par l'édit il 
n'y glissoit qu'une amende pécuniaire. Mais il y avoit en ce fait un tacit commandement 
et consentement du Roy, qui ferma la bouche aux plaintes qu'on en vouloit faire . 

Le surlendemain était lue et publiée une ordonnance de police faisant 

defenses à toutes personnes de mestier, qui ouvrent et besongnent de leurs mains, tenans 
bouticques en ceste ville [nouvelle insistance sur la distinction sociale], de ne porter 
veloux, satin, ne taffetas, soit en pourpoinct, chausses, juppes, doubleure de collets de 
manteau, doubleure de chappeaux, ne passement de soye, soit en bandes ou dessus 
manteaux, pourpoinct ne chausse : sur peines de confiscation des habillemens de pareille 
estoffe, et surlesquels seront trouvez lesdicts passements ou veloux, et de plus grande 
amende s'il y eschet . 

Ce coup d'éclat d'Henri III est souvent repris et cité par les historiens 
pour illustrer le problème du luxe vestimentaire dans la France de la Renais- 
sance. Le fait que l'Estoile s'y soit attardé et qu'il y réserve une rubrique, 
alors qu'il n'évoque même pas l'enregistrement de l'ordonnance, peut 
laisser penser avec assez de certitude que cet épisode fut isolé, voire unique. 
Car on peut se demander jusqu'à quel point cette action inattendue et 
imprévisible fut efficace. 

Il est en effet impossible d'estimer la valeur dissuasive des ordonnances 
somptuaires. Si on s'appuie généralement sur leurs répétitions pour confir- 
mer leur inefficacité, on évoque rarement l'action répressive annoncée par 
les lois. Les sujets n'obéirent sans doute que très rarement à la législation 
somptuaire, et ces « chetives reformations sur les habillemens », comme les 
appelait Montaigne"^^, n'eurent manifestement que peu ou pas d'influence 
sur les comportements vestimentaires ; c'est tout au moins ce que les 
journaux et mémoires des contemporains paraissent confirmer^^, puisqu'à 
la lecture du journal de l'Estoile cet étonnant événement n'influença pas 
davantage les usages fastueux des Parisiens. Ni Papon, ni Imbert, ni Duret 
ne rapportèrent dans leurs traités de jurisprudence des jugements pouvant 
confirmer une éventuelle répression des infractions somptuaires"*^. 

La difficulté de faire appliquer la loi par les magistrats, complices des 
transgresseurs, voire peut-être coupables de ce qu'on leur demandait de 
réprimer, semble s'être très souvent posée ; aussitôt après l'enregistrement 
de l'ordonnance de 1573, Charles IX enjoignit le prévôt de Paris de la faire 
observer « sans y user d'aucun déguisement, dissimulation, connivence, ou 
longueur : en quelque sorte et manière que ce soit »^^. D'ailleurs, lorsque 



34 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

Henri IV imputait les échecs de tous ses prédécesseurs en matière somp- 
tuaire, dans son ordonnance de 1601, à l'incompétence des magistrats « qui 
devoyent avoir Tœil sur l'observation d'icelles sans se bander à rencontre 
[et] les ont laissées violer à leur veuë et cognoissance », il est possible de 
penser que le respect des lois vestimentaires fut presque entièrement inexi- 
stant, simplement parce qu'il était au désavantage des officiers qui devaient 
s'en charger. 

Il paraît important qu'un historien s'attache un jour à étudier les regis- 
tres de la prévôté parisienne pour relever, si elles existent, les condamnations 
pécuniaires relatives aux infractions somptuaires. Pourrait-on y découvrir 
une taxe sur le luxe ? Rien n'est moins certain. Noël du Fail écrivait à ce 
sujet en 1585, dans ses Contes et discours d'Eutrapel, que les juges étaient 
à l'évidence peu enclins à réprimer des crimes dont ils se trouvaient eux- 
mêmes coupables : 

Vous ne sauriez mieux punir un vilain, que par la bource, et que les bonnes Ordonnances, 
comme celles cy dessus, bien establies, sont aisées à garder : pourveu que les Officiers 
et exécuteurs d'icelles n'y ayent interest particulier ou boursal : comme par exemple, il 
seroit beau que des putains reformassent un Couvent de Religieuses, qu'un roturier 
jugeast de la Noblesse, qu'un Prestre se meslast de la guerre . 

III. Henri IV et la nouvelle orientation de la législation somptuaire 

Une véritable rupture dans la législation somptuaire se révéla avec l'avène- 
ment au trône du premier Bourbon. Lorsque Barthélémy de Laffemas, qui 
fut le maître d'oeuvre de la culture du mûrier et de l'élevage du ver à soie en 
France (aucune surprise donc si l'interdiction des soieries disparut des 
ordonnances de 1601 et 1606), publia en 1601 une Remonstrance au peuple 
suivant les edicts et ordonnances des Roys, à cause du luxe et superfluité des 
soyes, son plaidoyer n'avait rien du discours prônant l'humilité du vêtement 
ou le respect de la hiérarchie sociale. Attribuant en effet la sanglante 
déconvenue française de 1 346 à Crécy à la colère de Dieu, irrité de 1' « orgueil 
et convoitise en habillemens riches et superflus » des guerriers de Philippe 
de Valois, l'auteur conclut que 

si l'on veut continuer aux desbordemens des habits, il est nécessaire suivre l'advis des 
Romains, ainsi qu'il est dit cy devant, qui ne vouloyent porter en meubles n'y vestemens, 
aucunes manufactures, qu 'elles ne fussent faites et travaillées dans leurs Provinces^ 
comme font a present en Angleterre, Escosse, Flandres, et autres pays, de façon qu'il est 
de besoin establir celles de ce Royaume, aussi bien qu'à Milan, Genes, Naples, et autres 
pays voisins, pourveu que la police d'un bon Conseil s'establisse en la ville de Paris . 

Qu'importait alors si l'on exhibait soieries ou draps d'or et d'argent 
dans la mesure où ils provenaient de la production française ? Certes, des 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 35 



restrictions sur le luxe vestimentaire allaient encore être prônées par les lois 
somptuaires de 1601 et 1606 ; pourtant, le propos de Barthélémy de Laffe- 
mas, comme celui d'autres auteurs proches du pouvoir, minimisèrent Tin- 
fraction aux ordonnances en inscrivant plutôt le problème au cœur des 
principes politiques du protectionnisme économique. Aussi, Charles Loy- 
seau pouvait écrire en toute légitimité en 1610 dans ses Cinq livres du droit 
des offices : « J'estime que ces Officiers vivans noblement, peuvent sans 
reprehension donner à leurs femmes l'habit et attour de Damoiselles, nonob- 
stant l'Ordonnance de 1576 qui defend aux non-nobles de porter, ni faire 
porter à leurs femmes les habits des Nobles »^^. Le problème hiérarchique 
avait ainsi disparu. Les ordonnances de 1601 et 1606 confirment par ailleurs 
cette hypothèse. En effet, elles proscrivaient encore les « toilles d'or ou 
d'argent, clinquants, profileures, broderies, passemens, bouttons, emboutis- 
semens, cordons, canetilles, veloux, satin ou taffetas barrez, meslez, couverts 
ou trassez d'or ou d'argent », mais n'organisaient plus les interdictions selon 
le rang des sujets : la justification par l'impératif hiérarchique disparut sous 
Henri IV qui, « comme père commun de tous », ne promulguait la loi 
somptuaire que pour libérer ses sujets des dépenses infertiles et « les voir 
mesnager et espargner leur revenu beaucoup plus utile et profitable à leurs 
enfans et successeurs, que l'exemple de l'employer si mal, et souvent à la 
ruine et dissipation des meilleures maisons ». La différence de naissance 
avait été depuis Henri II le fond même de la question vestimentaire, alors 
qu'avec Henri IV, plus de frontières sociales par le vêtement, seulement des 
représentations corporelles du capital : la distinction des ordres dans les 
étoffes n'allait être en effet qu'une affaire de trois règnes, car les ordon- 
nances d'Henri IV, comme celle de François P^ concernaient et s'appli- 
quaient à tous les sujets sans insister sur la hiérarchie sociale. En 1615 
Antoine de Montchrestien demandait peut-être à Louis XIII et à la reine- 
mère de nouvelles législations somptuaires pour rétablir l'association entre 
les préséances et le vêtement^^ ; mais cet appel resta sans écho, la codifica- 
tion vestimentaire selon la condition sociale étant alors devenue une règle 
du passé. 

La volonté de la noblesse d'immobiliser les catégories sociales se heurta 
alors peut-être à une royauté profondément engagée dans l'absolutisme, 
c'est-à-dire vouée à la disparition progressive des pouvoirs aristocratiques 
au profit d'une autorité unique et centralisée. « Plus encore que la menace 
protestante », écrivait récemment Robert Muchembled, « la structure de la 
noblesse compose le principal défi pour une monarchie en marche vers la 
concentration des pouvoirs et de l'absolutisme »^^. En n'insistant plus sur la 
relation entre le vêtement et la qualité de celui qui le portait, le discours 



36 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

somptuaire produit par la politique d'Henri IV paraît évoquer, si ce n'est une 
nouvelle volonté, tout au moins une nouvelle perception de la représentation 
du pouvoir par la somptuosité vestimentaire. 

Il est ainsi possible que la législation somptuaire au XVP siècle fut 
l'expression d'une pression de la noblesse au cœur d'une politique royale 
qui cherchait à en limiter les pouvoirs. Il paraît clair que l'obéissance à ces 
lois fut presque inexistante et que la transgression des règles vestimentaires, 
lorsqu'on en avait les moyens, restait plutôt la norme que l'exception. Cette 
réalité n'est en fait pas du tout étonnante puisqu' aucune volonté répressive, 
mis à part le sursaut exceptionnel de novembre 1583 par Henri III, ne vint 
apparemment contrôler ou poser la moindre menace aux infractions vesti- 
mentaires. Il était déjà paradoxal qu'on enregistrât des ordonnances visant 
à restreindre le port de la soie alors que les manufactures de Lyon et de Tours 
étaient encouragées par la politique royale ; il aurait donc été encore plus 
insensé de vouloir les appliquer. 

Le XVIP siècle allait en ce sens manifester plus de rigueur et de 
cohérence : si les nombreuses ordonnances qui furent enregistrées sous les 
règnes de Louis XIII et Louis XIV confirment l'inefficacité des contraintes 
judiciaires sur le luxe, la police allait quand même exercer des perquisitions 
chez de nombreux artisans parisiens pour contrôler les extravagances de 
richesse, comme on peut le lire dans les procès- verbaux manuscrits du 
commissaire N. Delamarre^^. Mais est-ce au demeurant si surprenant ? Toute 
manifestation vestimentaire s'était jusqu'alors associée au pouvoir, que ce 
fût par une obéissance fidèle aux interdictions somptuaires ou par la volonté 
de s'identifier, par la transgression, aux plus hautes sphères de la société et 
de l'État. Les objectifs des ordonnances du XVIP siècle n'étaient plus les 
mêmes puisque les restrictions s'appliquaient désormais à tous, sans exemp- 
tion pour la noblesse ; lorsque Louis XIV et Louis XV interdisaient par 
ordonnance royale qu'aucun ne fît porter à leurs domestiques « une Livrée 
de couleur bleue, encore que le Galon fust different de celuy de la Livrée de 
Sa Majesté »^^, le rapport ne s'établissait plus entre la noblesse et la bour- 
geoisie, mais entre le souverain et l'ensemble de ses sujets. Le roi ne 
partageait désormais plus ses dignités et son autorité avec sa noblesse. 

La réimpression et le renouvellement des edits somptuaires déclarant la 
nécessité d'une hiérarchie sociale dans le port des vêtements, qui disparut 
complètement des ordonnances des XVIP et XVIIP siècles, furent peut-être 
au fond l'expression du déséquilibre entre les revendications de la noblesse 
et l'idéal monarchique absolutiste. Les exemptions accordées à tous en 1561 
pour l'avènement de Charles IX paraissent confirmer cette logique d'unifi- 
cation : disparition des pouvoirs multiples au profit d'une égalité, forcément 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 37 



infériorisée, face au pouvoir central. L'incapacité ou l'absence de volonté de 
faire respecter la législation somptuaire conduisit apparemment à un enca- 
drement de la noblesse, qui dépendait désormais du roi pour pouvoir affirmer 
une supériorité qu'elle déclarait autrefois seule. L'étiquette courtisane en est 
la plus remarquable expression. On peut donc s'interroger si, paradoxale- 
ment, l'impossibilité de recourir à la répression pour contrôler les hiérarchies 
sociales permit au roi d'affaiblir les contre-pouvoirs qu'exerçaient jusque là 
la noblesse. 

En 1670, dans le Bourgeois gentilhomme de Molière, Monsieur Jour- 
dain pouvait, devant le roi, ouvertement prétendre s'associer aux nobles et 
aux courtisans en s 'appropriant leur mode vestimentaire : la noblesse, au lieu 
de s'en scandaliser, en riait. À cette époque, la civilisation des mœurs avait 
déjà remplacé le vêtement par le geste dans les usages complexes de la 
représentation de soi. La roture pouvait bien se déguiser si elle en avait 
envie ; le noble, fort d'un rituel de cour directement défini par la présence 
du souverain, avait d'autres privilèges de préséances à jalouser. 

Université Laval / Université Paris-Nord 



Notes 

1. Barthélémy de Laffemas, Remonstrance au peuple suivant les edicts et ordonnances des 
Roys, à cause du luxe et superfluité des soyes, clinquants en habits, ruine générale, Paris, 
Nicolas Barbote, 1601, p. 2. 

2. Bernard Quilliet, La France du beau XVF siècle (1492-1 560), Paris, Fayard, 1998. 

3. Madeleine Lazard, « Le Corps vêtu. Signification du costume à la Renaissance », Le Corps 
à la Renaissance. Actes du XXX^ colloque de Tours 1987, sous la direction de Jean Céard, 
Marie-Madeleine Fontaine et Jean-Claude Margolin, Paris, Aux Amateurs de Livres, 1990, 
p. 77-94. 

4. Voir, par exemple, Claude La Charité, L'Instruction pour les jeunes dames de Marie de 
Romieu. Un traité de 'savoir-paraître'à l'usage des femmes, Paris, Champion, 2001. 

5. L'historienne Michèle Fogel est l'un des rares chercheurs à s'être penché sur le problème. 
Comme sa contribution sur les modèles de dépense sous l'Ancien Régime (« Modèle d'État 
et modèle social de dépense. Les lois somptuaires en France de 1485 à 1660 », Genèse de 
l'État moderne. Prélèvement et redistribution, Paris, Éditions du CNRS, 1987, p. 227-35), 
cette réflexion sur la législation somptuaire évacue délibérément les ordonnances restreign- 
ant les fastes alimentaires et la somptuosité des carrosses pour ne s'attacher qu'aux edits 
vestimentaires. Le rapport au corps m'apparaît en effet le plus important dans l'ensemble 
des lois somptuaires puisqu'il est le plus immédiat à l'individu : c'est lui qui suscita le plus 
d'ordonnances sans doute parce que c'est lui qui déchaînait le plus d'infractions. 

6. La recherche du consentement demeurant essentielle à la légitimité de l'État, le préambule 
des ordonnances énonçait les raisons alléguées par le pouvoir pour justifier les mesures et 
les rigueurs décidées par le roi et son conseil. 



38 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

7. Edit portant défense à tous autres qu 'aux nobles de porter des draps d 'or et de soie, à peine 
de confiscation et d'amende, in Recueil général des anciennes lois françaises, depuis l'an 
420 jusqu'à la Révolution de 1789, éd. F- A. Isambert et al., Paris, Belin-Leprieur, 1 827, t. 
11 (1483-1514), p. 155-56. 

8. Christian de Mérindol, « Signes de hiérarchie sociale à la fin du Moyen Age d'après le 
vêtement. Méthodes et recherches », Cahiers du Léopard d'Or, vol. 1, 1989, p. 181-223. 

9. François de La Noue, Discours politiques et militaires (1587), éd. F. E. Sutcliffe, Genève, 
Droz, 1967,p. 191-93. 

1 0. Edit défendant aux financiers, gens d 'affaires et comptables de porter aucuns draps de soie, 
et de constituer à leurs filles des dots excédant la dixième partie de leurs biens, etc., in F -A. 
Isambert étal, op. cit., t. 12 (1514-1546), p. 361-68. 

11. Edit défendant l'usage des habits d'or et d'argent, broderies, velours, etc., sous peine 
d'amende et de confiscation, in Isambert, et al, op. cit., t. 12 (1514-1546), p. 834-35. 

12. Ordonnance du Roy Henry sur la reformation des habillemens de draps d'or et de soye, 
Bibhothèque Nationale de France (B. N.), F-46804 (1 1), A2-A3. 

13. Pierre Goubert, Les Français et l'Ancien Régime, vol. \,La Société et l'État, Paris, Armand 
Colin, 1984, p. 302. 

14. B.N., F-46804 (11), A3-B3. 

15. L'ordonnance de 1549 est reproduite en annexe. 

16. Ordonnance du Roy prohibitive de porter habillemens de draps de soye, et autres super- 
fluitez. B. N., F-46821 (22). 

17. Recueil des cahiers généraux des trois ordres aux Etats-Généraux, vol. 1 , Etats d'Orléans 
en 1560, Paris, Barrois l'aîné, 1789, p. 52. Je souligne. 

18. Ibid., p. 72 et 145. Je souligne. 

19. /feïV/.. p. 400. 

20. On peut s'interroger sur l'intention du Tiers État quant à la prodigalité des artisans. La 
position du troisième ordre masquerait-elle une volonté plus sociale qu'économique, les 
notables cherchant ainsi à se distinguer parmi les diverses classes de roturiers ? 

21. Georges Picot, Histoire des États généraux, Paris, Hachette, 1888, vol. 1, p. 347-92. 

22. Ordonnance du Roy sur le reiglement des usaiges de draps, tailles, passements et broderies 
d'or, d'argent et soye, et aultres habillements superflus, B. N., F-46826 (2). 

23. Lettres patentes du Roy contenantes itératives jussions pour l'observation de la reformation 
des habillemens, et luxe des viandes, B. N., F- 27573 (6). Je souligne. 

24. La Response de Jean Bodin à M. de Malestroit (1568), éd. Henri Hauser, Paris, Armand 
Colin, 1932, p. 20. Je souligne. 

25. Jean Duret, Traicté des peines et amandes, tant pour les matières crimineles que civiles, 
Lyon, Benoist Rigaud, 1572, p. 167. 

26. Ordonnance du Roy par laquelle il est prohibé à toutes personnes (excepté ceux qu 'il a 
pieu à sa Majesté en exempter) de porter sur eux, en habillements ne autres ornements, 
aucuns draps ne toile d'or et d'argent, profileures, broderies, passements, emboutisse- 
ments, orfavrerie, cordons, canetilles, velours, satins, ou taffetas, bourrez, meslez, couverts 
ou trassez d'or ou d'argent, ne autres telles superfluitez, avec defenses aux bourgeoises de 
changer leur estât, B. N., F-46844 (13). En janvier 1574 paraissaient de nouvelles lettres 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 39 



patentes du roi qui rappelaient qu'après moins d'un an depuis la publication de la dernière 
ordonnance, le faste des habits n'avait toujours pas été réformé : « Et combien qu'elle 
[l'ordonnance] soit encore si fresche et récente que Ion ne la puisse ignorer, si est-ce que 
nosdicts subjects en ont jusques icy tenu si peu de compte, que au lieu de l'observer ils 
continuent, et sont plus desbordez que jamais, en la superfluité de leursdits habillements : 
de manière qu'il ne se void pour ce regard que mespris et contemnement » {Lettres patentes 
du Roy a Messieurs de la Cour de Parlement, leur enjoignant tresexpressément défaire 
garder et observer de poinct en poinct l'Ordonnance faitte par sa Majesté pour reprimer 
la superfluité de ses sujects en leurs habits et accoustremens, Paris, chez Federic Morel, 
1574,B. N.,F-46846[2]). 

27. Voir Jean Boutier, Alain Dewerpe et Daniel Nordman, Un Tour de France royal. Le voyage 
de Charles IX (1564-1 566), Paris, Aubier, 1984. 

28. Pierre de Bourdeille, abbé de Brantôme, Discours sur les duels, dans Œuvres complètes, 
éd. Ludovic Lalanne, Paris, la veuve Jules Renouard, vol. 6, p. 438-39. 

29. Voir à ce sujet Ralph E. Giesey, Cérémonial et puissance souveraine. France, XV^-XVIII^ 
siècles, Paris, Armand Colin, 1987. 

30. Etienne JoUet, Jean et François Clouet, Paris, Lagune, 1997. 

3 1 . L'officier, écrivait Charles Loyseau en 1610, alliait pouvoir, honneur et profit : « J'excepte 
seulement pour ce qui est de l'honneur celuy de l'Exécuteur de haute justice ; mais cet 
Office estant contre nature, quoy que tres-necessaire, ce n'est pas merveille qu'il soit 
irregulier » (Charles Loyseau, Cinq livres du droit des offices, Paris, Abel l'Angelier, 1610, 
livre I, chapitre VII). 

32. Ruth Mellinkoff, Outcasts: Signs of Otherness in Northern European Art of the Late Middle 
Ages, 2 vols, Berkeley, University of Cahfomia Press, 1993. 

33. « A I'esgard de ceux qui sont exécutez à mort, le geollier de la prison a droict de prendre 
la ceincture du condamné (...) et ce qui est au dessus de la ceincture appartient au boureau » 
(Guy Coquille, Institution au droict des François, Paris, Abel l'Angelier, 1607, p. 29). 

34. Les crises multiples qu'avaient provoquées en France les troubles religieux du XVF siècle 
engendrèrent dans l'esprit des théoriciens une pensée politique en faveur de l'autorité civile, 
de son renforcement et de la centralisation du pouvoir aux mains du monarque ; la théorie 
absolutiste de Bodin répondait ainsi aux préoccupations politiques d'un pouvoir royal 
profondément affaibli. Voir à ce sujet Julian H. Franklin, Jean Bodin et la naissance de la 
théorie absolutiste, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1993. 

35. Paris, Nicolas Chesneau, 1573. 

36. Lyon, Antoine Gryphius, 1577. 

37. « Quoy ? voulez vous dire que revestues de tels accoustremens, vous soyez honnestement 
habillées ? En vérité vous ne le pouvez dire en bonne conscience. Si ne me voulez croire, 
j'ay ample tesmoignage de gens de bien, et dignes de foy, lesquels je produiray pour 
confirmation de mon dire. J'ay les Prophètes, j'ay les Apostres, j'ay les saincts Martyrs qui 
ont par leur mort receu la couronne de toutes leurs actions, pour la defense de la gloire de 
Dieu, et le soustien de nostre foy Catholique. J'ay tous les Docteurs de nostre mere saincte 
Eglise. Brief, j'ay toute l'antiquité pour moy » (François- Antoine Estienne, Remonstrance 
charitable aux Dames et Damoyselles de France, sur leurs ornemens dissolus, pour les 
induire à laisser l 'habit du Paganisme, et prendre celuy de la femme pudique et Chrestienne, 
Paris, Sebastien Nivelle, 1581 , p. 4vO). 



40 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



38. « Par cet exemple veritable et nouvellement advenu, vous devez. Mes Dames, prendre garde 
à vous et croire que Dieu vous manifeste, affm que vous ayez non seullement à corriger 
vos vices mais aussi a modérer vos habits effrenez et voluptueux pour en fin avoir une mort 
et un trespassement honorable qui vous conduise au Ciel en la dextre de Dieu avec les 
heureuses Vierges et Sainctes » (Discours miraculeux inouy et epouventable, avenu à 
Envers ville capitalle de la Duché de Brébant, d'une Jeune Fille Flamende, qui par la 
Vanité, et trop grande curiosité de ses habits et collez à Fraize Goderonnez à la nouvelle 
mode, Fut étranglée du Diable, et son corps après telle punition Divine estant au Cerceuil, 
transformé en un Chat Noyr en presence de tout le Peuple assemblé, Paris, Benoist 
Chauchet, 1582, Biij). 

39. Vérité Habanc, Nouvelles histoires tant tragiques que comiques (1585), éd. Jean-Claude 
Amould et Richard A. Carr, Genève, Droz, 1989, p. 50. 

40. Voir notamment Jacqueline Boucher, Société et mentalités autour de Henri III, 4 vols, Paris, 
Champion, 1981, et plus récemment Guy Poirier, L'Homosexualité dans l'imaginaire de 
la Renaissance, Paris, Champion, 1996, p. 107-61. 

41 . Jérôme Lippomano, in Relations des ambassadeurs vénitiens sur les affaires de France au 
XVI^ siècle, éd. M. N. Tommaseo, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1838, t. 2, p. 555-57. 

42. Voir à ce sujet Anne de Vaucher Gravili, Loi et transgression. Les histoires tragiques au 
XVII^ siècle, Lècce, Milella, 1982. 

43. Declaration du Roy sur le faict et reformation des habits, avec defense aux non nobles 
d'usurper le tiltre de noblesse, et à leurs femmes de porter l'habit de Damoiselle, sur les 
peines encourues, B. N., F-46852 (1). Je souligne. Cette formule pourtant stéréotypée 
n'apparaît pas dans les ordonnances précédentes. 

44. Ordonnance du Roy pour le règlement et reformation de la dissolution et superfluité qui 
est es habillemens et omemens d'iceux, et de la punition de ceux qui contreviendront à 
ladicte ordonnance, B. N., F-46875 (14). 

45. Pierre de l'Estoile, Registre- Journal (1574-1611), éd. J.-F. Michaud et J.-J.-F. Poujoulat, 
Paris, l'éditeur du commentaire analytique du code civil, 1837, p. 166-67. 

46. Ordonnance de la Police générale, pour l'exécution de V Edict faict par le Roy sur le 
règlement des soyes et habillemens, B. N., F-47161 (23). Je souligne. 

47. Montaigne, Essais, 3 vols, Paris, Gamier-Flammarion, 1979, III, 9, p. 160. 

48. Cette résistance ne semble d'ailleurs pas se restreindre seulement au cas français. Voir le 
récent travail de synthèse de Alan Hunt, Governance of the Consuming Passions: A History 
of Sumptuary Law, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Macmillan Press, 1996. 

49. Jean Imbert, Les Institutes de praticque en matière civile et criminèle, Lyon, B. Rigaud, 
1566 ; Jean Papon, Recueil d'arrestz notables des courtz souveraines de France, Paris, J. 
Macé, 1568 ; Jean Duret, op. cit.. 

50. Lettres du Roy au Prévost de Paris, pour faire entretenir, garder et observer l'ordonnance 
faicte par sa Majesté, afin de reprimer la superfluité qui se voit débordement augmentée 
es habillements de ses subjects, B. N., F-46844 (15). 

51. Noël du Fail, Contes et discours d'Eutrapel, in Œuvres facétieuses, éd. J. Assézat, Paris, 
PaulDaffis, 1874,t. l,p. 271. 

52. B. de Laffemas, op. cit., p. 14. Je souligne. 

53. Charles Loyseau, op. cit., livre I, chapitre VII. 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 41 



54. Antoine de Montchrestien, Traicté de l'économie politique, s.l., n.d. (1615). 

55. Robert Muchembled, La Société policée. Politique et politesse en France du XVF au XX^ 
siècle, Paris, Seuil, 1998, p. 27. 

56. B. N., manuscrits français 21626-21627. 

57. B. N., F-23617 (514) [12 décembre 1703] et F-21153 (23) [6 février 1753]. 

Annexe 

Nota : La transcription opère la dissimulation systématique des « i » et des « j », de même que 
des « u » et des « v », et développe r« & » en « et ». Le texte suit cependant fidèlement 
l'orthographe, la ponctuation ainsi que l'emploi des majuscules. 

Ordonnance du Roy Henry sur la Reformation des Habillemens de draps d'or et de soye, juillet 
1549. 

Henry par la grace de Dieu Roy de France, à tous ceux qui ces présentes Lettres verront. Salut. 

Comme des nostre nouvel advenement à la couronne, considérant les grandes et excessives 
despenses du tout inutiles et superflues, qui se faisoient aux accoustremens que portoyent 
hommes et femmes, sans aucune discretion ne différence de leurs qualitez, estats et facultez. 
Nous ensuyvant les defenses, qui du temps du feu Roy nostre treshonoré Seigneur et Père, 
avoyent sur ce autres fois esté faictes, eussions prohibé et défendu à toutes personnes de noz 
Royaume, pays, terres et seigneuries, de ne porter sur eux en habillemens n' autres omemens, 
aucuns draps ne toile d'or et d'argent, pourfilleuses, passemens, brodures, orfeveries, cordons, 
canetilles, velours, satins, ou taffetas barrez d'or ou d'argent, soubz les peines sur ce indictes. 
Et combien que lesdictes ordonnances et deffences ayent esté publiées par tout ou besoing estoit, 
de sorte que nul n'en ayt peu prétendre cause d'ignorance, si est ce que de present elles sont 
mal observées, et comme quasi contenmees : Et non seulement continuent mais augmentent de 
jour à autre telles excessives superfluitez d'habillemens et accoustremens entre gentils hommes, 
dames et damoiselles, gens d'église et de justice, et autres hommes et femmes de toutes estats : 
lesquels par ce moyen l'on ne peut choisir ne discerner les uns d'avec les autres, et s'en va en 
cela une grand partie de leur bien et substance, au lieu de ce que lesdicts gentils-hommes le 
devroyent employer au service de nous, et de la chose publicque en temps d'affaires : ou bien 
pour leurs nécessitez ou particulières négoces, et les autres à l'entretenement de leurs mesnages 
et familles, observans l'honnesteté et modestie, et selon les estats et vacations ou ils sont apellez. 
Pource est il, que nous ayant depuis mis en consideration ce qu'il nous a semblé devoir estre 
considéré en ceste partie, eu sur ce l'advis et deliberation avec aucuns Princes et seigneurs de 
nostre sang et autres notables personnages de nostre conseil privé estants lez : nous avons de 
rechef (comme chose tresrequise, nécessaire et convenable pour l'utiHté publicque) ordonné, 
prohibé et deffendu : ordonnons, prohibons et défendons tresexpressement par ces présentes, 
de noz certaine science, plaine puissance et auctorité royal, à toutes personnes de nosdicts 
Royaume, pays, terres et seigneuries, hommes et femmes, de quelque estât ou condition qu'ilz 
soyent : que d'oresnauant ilz n' ayent à porter sur eux en habillemens n'autres omemens, aucuns 
draps ne toille d'or et d'argent, pourfilleuses, broderies, passemens, emboutissemens, orfeveries, 
cordons, canetilles, velours, satins ou taffetas d'or ou d'argent, n'autres telles superfluitez : si 
ce n'est premièrement quant à l'orfeverie, en boutons ou fers seulement sur les decouppeures 
des manches des robbes, et sur les sayes au devant du corps et des fentes, et pareillement aux 
manches desdictz sayes qui seront decouppez et non ailleurs. Et quant audictes broderies, 
passemens et emboutissemens, ilz se pourront porter de soye, et non d'autre estoffe et matière, 



42 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



aux bords et bordeures des accoustremens seulement, de la largeur de quatre doigts, sans ce que 
l'on en puisse mettre sur les pliz, ne au corps d'iceulx accoustremens, soyent robbes ou sayes. 

Et afin qu'il demeure aux Princes et Princesses (comme il est tresraisonnable) quelque différence 
en leurs accoustremens : Nous voulons et leur permettons porter en robbes tous draps de soyes, 
rouges, cramoisiz, sans ce que nulz autres hommes et femmes soyent si osez ne hardiz d'en 
porter, sinon les gentilzhommes, en pourpoinct, et en hault de chausses : et les Dames et 
Damoi selles, en cottes et en manches. 

Et aussi afin que les filles estans nourries es maisons de nostre treschere et tresaimée compagne 
la Royne, et de noz trescheres et tresaimées filles et soeur Marguerite de France, ayent 
accoustremens differens des autres. Nous voulons qu'elles puissent porter en robbe, velours de 
couleur autre que rouge cramoysi. En defendant à celles qui sont au service des Princesses ou 
Dames, de ne porter en robbes, autre velours que noir ou tanné, leur laissant neantmoins en 
autres draps de soyes, les couleurs non défendues. 

Et quant aux femmes des gens de nostre justice, et autres demeurans es villes de nostre 
Royaume : Nous leur avons à toutes expressément deffendu et deffendons de porter aucunes 
robes de velours, ny d'autre drap de soye de couleur, leur permettant seulement, comme diet 
est, les porter en cottes et mancherons. 

Et ne porteront les gens d'Eglise robbe de velours, s'ils ne sont princes. En defendant aussi à 
tous, qui ne sont gentilzhommes, ou qui ne sont gens de guerre à nostre soulde, de porter soye 
sur soye : C'est à sçavoir s'ils ont un saye de velours ou d'autre drap de soye, ils ne pourront 
avoir la robbe de soye : et ainsi consequemment de leurs autres habillemens. Aussi ne porteront 
bonnets ne souliers de velours, ne forreaux de mesme à leur espee. Exceptant et reservant, quant 
à ce, tous ceux qui sont ordinaires au près de nostre personne, et de nostre conseil privé, qui 
iront accoustrez et habillez selon et ainsi qu'ilz ont accoustumé. 

Et pource que par nosdictes premieres deffenses estoit réservé de porter sur harnois toutes sortes 
d' accoustremens cy dessus prohibez et deffenduz : Nous en modifiant ceste licence, déclarons 
par cesdictes présentes, que sur lesdictz harnois des gens de guerre, et capamassons de chevaux, 
ne se portera drap ne toile d'or ou d'argent, traict ne tissu, n' estoit pour une fois en acte notable, 
comme en une bataille et journée assignee. Mais bien se pourra porter broderie ou tailleure d'or 
ou d'argent, ou soye en bord de quatre doigts, et enrichissement de croix. Et d'oresnavant ne 
seront les Pages (soyent de Princes, Seigneurs, gentilzhommes ou autres) habillez que de drap 
seulement, avec un gect ou bande de broderie de soye ou velours si bon semble à leur maistre. 

Et outre deffendons pareillement à tous artisans, mechaniques, paysans, gens de labeur et valletz, 
s'ilz ne sont aux Princes, de porter pourpoint de soye, ne chaulses bandées, ne bouffantes de 
soye. Et pource qu'une partie de la superfluité de l'usage de soye, est provenue du grand nombre 
des bourgeoises qui sont faictes damoiselles de jour en autre : Nous avons faict et faisons 
deffenses, comme dessus, ausdictes bourgeoises, que d'oresnavant pour l'advenir, ilz n'ayent à 
changer leur estât, si leur mariz ne sont gentilzhommes. 

Si donnons en mandement par ces présentes, à noz amez et feaulx les gens de noz cours de 
Parlemens, et à tous noz BailHfz, Seneschaux, Prevosts, et autres noz justiciers et officiers qu'il 
appartiendra, que nosdictes ordonnances, prohibitions et defences, ils facent publier et signifier 
par tous les lieux et endroicts de leurs ressortz, destroictz et jurisdictions que besoing sera. Et 
icelles de poinct en poinct entretenir, garder et observer, inviolablement : sur peine à ceux qui 
dedans huict jours après la publication de cesdictes présentes, seront trouvez transgresseurs et 
violateurs, de confiscation des habitz et accoustremens que l'on trouvera sur eux contre nosdictes 
ordonnances et defences, et de mil escuz d'or soleil d'amende à nous appliquer, et tenir prison 



Pascal Bastien / « Aux trésors dissipez l'on cognoist le malfaict » / 43 



jusques à plain payement : Lesquelles peines nous voulons estre exécutées et observées sur 
lesdicts transgresseurs, reaulment et de faict : Nonobstant oppositions ou appellations 
quelconques et sans prejudice d'icelles, pour lesquelles ne voulons estre différé : en enjoignant 
tresexpressement à noz advocats et procureurs generaulx en nosdictz Parlemens, et à leurs 
substitutz esdictz Bailliages, Seneschaulcées et jurisdictions, sur ce tenir la main, et faire les 
poursuittes et instances en tels cas requises, pour le deu de leurs estatz et offices, et sermens 
qu'ilz ont à nous. En certifiant par eulx de six mois en six mois les gens de nostre conseil privé, 
des diligences et devoir qui se feront à l'observation et entretenement de nosdictes ordonnances, 
prohibitions et defences, afin que selon cela y soit pourveu ainsi qu'il appartiendra : Car tel est 
nostre plaisir. 

Et pour ce que de ces présentes l'on pourra avoir affaire en plusieurs et divers lieux : Nous 
voulons qu'au vidimus d'icelles deuëment collationné, foy soit adjoustée comme au present 
original. 

Donné à Paris, le douziesme jour de Juillet, l'an de grace mil cinq cens quaranteneuf. 

Et de nostre règne le troisiesme. 

Ainsi signé, sur le reply. 

ParleRoy.DUTHIER. 

Et scellé du grand scel, de cire jaulne. 

Lecta publicata et registrata, audito et requirente procuratore générait Regis. Actum Parisiis 
in Parlemento, décima quarta die Augusti, Anno domini millesimo quingentesimo 
quadragesimo nono. 

Sic signatum, DU TILLET. 

Publié à son de trompe par ordonnance de la court par les carrefours de la ville de Paris, le 
quatorziesme jour d' Aoust, mil cinq cens quarante neuf. 



"What should we do?": 

The Predicament of 

Practical Reason in Hamlet 



Eric P. Levy 



Résumé : Fondamentalement, ce qui se passe dans Hamlet ne concerne ni 
l'action ni les antécédents de l'action, mais la mise en cause de la doctrine de 
l'action rationnelle, donc de la raison pratique. La conséquence de cette critique 
radicale est de réviser la fin des intentions humaines ainsi que les actes 
intentionnels par lesquels elles sont réalisées. Au moyen d'un processus analo- 
gue à la purgation mentionnée par le revenant de son père, Hamlet développe 
progressivement une moralité qui transcende le modèle aristotélicien et thomiste. 

Through its eponymous protagonist, Hamlet foregrounds the mimetic 
function of dramatic art: "the purpose of playing . . . was and is to hold 
as 'twere the mirror up to nature."^ But from its opening words, "Who's 
there?", Hamlet the play deepens the conception of the mirror to which 
Hamlet the character refers. Whereas an ordinary mirror reflects only that 
which is given — intact and constituted — outside it, the mimetic mirror in 
Hamlet represents the process of "transformation" through which the central 
character "imitated" or reflected forges the meaning of his own identity by 
questioning the principles on which it is based: "What is a man ... ?" (2.2.5; 
3.2.35; 4.4.33). Ironically, when citing the doctrine of the "fault" whereby 
"particular men" (1.4.36, 23) succumb, inevitably and irreversibly, to their 
respective flaws, Hamlet invokes the classical notion of character which the 
play itself, through its representation of him, transcends. In that classical 
notion, inaugurated by Heraclitus, character unfolds the implications of its 
own intrinsic structure: "Character for man is destiny."^ But like the Ghost 
("What art thou . . . ?"), Hamlet himself is defined, not by the clarification 
of intrinsic structure, but by the problematizing of it: "you would pluck out 
the heart of my mystery" (3.2.355-56; cf. 1.2.48). 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 4 (1999) /45 



46 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



The "mystery" at the core of Hamlet's identity is not just his alone. At 
bottom, it is the mystery at the core of personhood or the "single and peculiar 
life," as the play represents it (3.3.11). As such, Hamlet dramatizes what 
Ernst Cassirer, in another context, has called "anthropological philosophy": 
the attempt to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the "humanity" 
(3.2.35) common to all human individuals, so that the supreme meaning and 
responsibilities of living might thereby be illumined: "It is not concerned 
with a single theoretical problem, however general in its scope; here the 
whole destiny of man is at stake and clamoring for an ultimate decision'' (my 
emphasis).^ Precisely this demand for ultimate clarification of purpose 
resounds in Hamlet's interrogation of the Ghost: "Say why is this? Where- 
fore? What should we doT (1 .4.56-57, my emphasis). He re-emphasizes this 
profound urgency when the Ghost beckons him "to a more removed ground": 
"My fate cries out" (1.4.61, 83). Hamlet's need to know his own defining 
and consummating purpose is intensified by the melancholy which has 
already estranged him from the conventional doctrines of purpose which he 
earlier accepted: "How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all 
the uses of this world!" (1.2.133-34). Yet paradoxically, Hamlet's fate is to 
understand purpose ("I am constant to my purposes . . ." [5.2.197]) only 
through first deepening his perplexity concerning it. 

Indeed, far from resolving the problem of purpose, Hamlet's dialogue 
with the Ghost soon complicates his uncertainty in this regard, with the result 
that he questions both his own courage to implement purpose ("Am I a 
coward?" [2.2.566]) and the Ghost's motives in enunciating purpose: "The 
spirit I have seen / May be a devil . . ." (594-95). In the "To be" soliloquy, 
Hamlet's perplexity regarding purpose makes an intellectual leap to a differ- 
ent order of concern. Here it is no longer particular purposes (such as those 
of Hamlet or the Ghost) that are questioned, but the very notion of purpose 
itself. First, life ("To be") is construed as deprived of any purpose but 
achieving release or "quietus" (3.1.75) from its own suffering. But this sole 
remaining purpose is itself problematized by uncertainty concerning the 
consequences of enactment: "For in that sleep of death what dreams may 
come, / When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, / Must give us pause 
. . ." (66-68). Hence, in the "To be" soliloquy, Hamlet resolves his earlier 
question: "What should we do?". The answer is that we should do nothing, 
lest "action" (88) precipitate a situation worse than the one it intends to 
terminate: "rather bear those ills we have / Than fly to others that we know 
not of (81-82). The only reasonable purpose is the forfeit of purpose. There 
is nothing to be done but restrain "resolution" (84), lest its "consummation" 
(63) exacerbate the circumstances provoking it. 



Eric P. Levy / The Predicament of Practical Reason in Hamlet I Al 

The acute conflict, in the "To be" soliloquy, between the urge to action 
and abstention from action (what Claudius elsewhere refers to as "[d]eliber- 
ate pause" [4.3.9]) recurs throughout the play, which often dramatizes the 
refraining from action at the very moment when the urge to act is most 
intense: instances include "Pyrrhus' pause" (2.2.483) just before furiously 
hacking Priam to bits: "For lo, his sword, /Which was declining on the milky 
head / Of reverend Priam, seem*d i'th'air to stick" (473-75); Hamlet's 
abstention from murdering Claudius at prayer: "Up, sword, and know thou 
a more horrid hent" (3.3.88); Hamlet's urging of Gertrude to abstain from 
conjugal contact with Claudius: "Refrain tonight, / And that shall lend a kind 
of easiness / To the next abstinence, the next more easy" (3.4.167-69); 
Claudius' abstention from apprehending Hamlet immediately after the mur- 
der of Polonius, "feats, / So crimeful and so capital in nature" (4.7.6-7); 
Claudius' confidence that Laertes will abstain from assaulting him: "There's 
such a divinity doth a hedge a king" (4.5. 123); and Horatio's abstention from 
suicide in order to fulfill Hamlet's request to "tell my story" (5.2.354). 

As these examples suggest, the conflict between straining toward and 
refraining from action is central to the play. Indeed, Hamlet's celebrated 
delay, wherein he craves to "sweep to my revenge" (1.5.31) but remains 
"laps'd in time and passion" (3.4.107), with "[t] h 'important acting" (108) 
long left undone, epitomizes the centrality of this conflict. In this context, 
the fundamental question regarding purpose ("What should we do?") 
becomes far more complex. For it now concerns not only appropriate action, 
but also the factors problematizing the very notion of purpose. At a funda- 
mental level, as we shall find, what happens in Hamlet concerns neither 
action only, nor the antecedents of action, but a subjecting of the Christian- 
humanist doctrine of rational action to a radical critique whose consequence 
is a reinterpretation of the end or purpose of human "purposes" (5.2.197) 
and the "purpos'd" acts by which they are fulfilled (237). The immediate 
upshot of this critique is a re-evaluation of Hamlet's delay. Following 
Hamlet's own example, conventional explanations tend first to construe 
delay in terms of deferred or "tardy" (3.4.107) enactment of a purpose 
already defined, and then to seek reasons for the inaction: "Why yet . . . this 
thing's to do" (4.4.44)."^ But the critique of the Christian-humanist doctrine 
of purpose embedded in the play suggests a completely different perspective. 
Here, delay pertains primarily neither to dilatory enactment of purpose nor 
to defective or conflicted motivation regarding purpose, but to the process 
whereby Hamlet deepens the very conception of purpose. 



48 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



The Christian-humanist Notion of Practical Reason 

Investigation of these matters must begin with the notion of practical reason. 
In the Christian-humanist tradition which Hamlet frequently cites, thinking 
or the exercise of reason is construed as operating differently according to 
the function of its knowledge. If directed toward the consideration of truth 
as such, reason is speculative. If directed toward the consideration of action, 
it is practical. Aquinas succinctly formulates: "For the practical intellect 
knows truth, just as the speculative, but it directs the known truth to 
operation."^ Gilson expands: "it [reason] is called speculative when it treats 
of things to be known, and practical when it treats of how its acts are to be 
done."^ Hence, when praising the "large discourse" (4.4.36) of "godlike 
reason" (38), Hamlet refers to speculative reason. But when deploring "the 
pale cast of thought" (3.1.85) which inhibits "action" (88), he refers to 
practical reason, which, as Grisez indicates, is "the mind working as princi- 
ple of action, not simply as a recipient of objective reality."*^ As John of St. 
Thomas indicates, unlike that pertaining to speculative reason, the truth of 
practical reason "lies not in being, but in what ought to be."^ 

In the rational schema now under review, the function of practical 
reason is to direct action by formulating ends or purposes and the means of 
their achievement. But it can do so only through adherence to its own first 
principle, which, as Gilson notes, "is that we should desire what is good and 
avoid what is evil."^ Without the ability to discern these moral distinctions, 
practical reason cannot properly perform its function of directing action. As 
we shall find, the plight of practical reason in Hamlet suggests a fallen world, 
where moral distinctions are rendered problematic by the rational faculty 
charged with the task of determining them: "there is nothing either good or 
bad but thinking makes it so" (2.2.249-50, my emphasis). Indeed, the very 
name of Hamlet's adversary, Claudius, foregrounds the notion of postlapsar- 
ian predicament; for Christian tradition represents man after the Fall as a 
limping creature {homo claudans), who limps because of the wound or 
vulneratio of original sin.^^ In this context, Hamlet's assumed madness 
becomes profoundly ironic. For it foregrounds the malfunctioning, not of 
speculative, but of practical reason: the aptitude to conceive purposes and 
direct them toward realization. Ultimately, as we shall find, the dysfunction 
of practical reason in Hamlet derives, not only from defects in particular 
agents with respect to moral discrimination, but from ambiguities in the 
prevailing morality. Hence, for Hamlet, the physical "consummation" 
(3.1.63) of action can occur only after he redefines its moral basis, by 
reforming the distinction between "better, and worse" (3.2.245). 



Eric P. Levy / The Predicament of Practical Reason in Hamlet 1 49 

In the teleological ethics of Christian humanism, it is the function of 
practical reason to formulate ends and the function of the "will" (3.1.80), 
thus prompted, to tend or incline toward them in a movement called intention 
or "intent" (1.2.1 1 2). ^^ But this "inclination" (3.3.39) or "inclining" 
(2.2.275) toward an end presupposes knowledge of that end, and knowledge 
of an end requires deliberation concerning the means appropriate to realize 
or achieve it. However, the moral calculus by which the end is known differs 
from that by which the means is ascertained. Unlike means, ends are simply 
assumed or conceived, and are not themselves the subject of deliberation, as 
Aristotle indicates in the Nichomachean Ethics: "Again, wish relates rather 
to the end, choice to the means; for instance, we wish to be healthy, but we 
choose the acts which will make us healthy." ^^ Aquinas elaborates: "The end 
is the principle in practical matters, because the nature of the means is to be 
found in the end. Now the principle cannot be called in question, but must 
be presupposed in every inquiry. Since therefore counsel [or deliberation] is 
an inquiry, it is not of the end but only of the means." ^^ Once the end is 
formulated, practical reason must determine, by cognitive deliberation, the 
means most appropriate to achieve that end. Gilson summarizes this process: 
"This deliberation {consilium) terminates in a choice (electio) and in the 
consent {consensus), or approval, given by our will to that choice."*"^ Thus, 
in the moral scheme under consideration, action is simply the external 
terminus of the complex internal process preceding it. Without that process, 
action is at best "rash" (3.4.27) and at worst "mad" (2.2.92). 

The Breakdown of Practical Reason 

Though no Hamlet criticism has yet shown how the play critiques the 
Christian-humanist doctrine of practical reason, critics have wrangled over 
that aspect of practical reason which concerns conscience: the ability, not to 
deliberate morally, but to distinguish between good and evil in particular 
cases. Indeed, the Elizabethan Puritan, William Perkins, wrote copiously on 
the subject of conscience as a function of practical reason. ^^ With respect to 
recent discussion of Hamlet's particular conscience, debate has concerned 
whether, in his ability to distinguish good from evil, Hamlet is either 
deficient or overly scrupulous. T. McAlindon presents a representative 
opinion on the side of deficiency, arguing that Hamlet suffers from moral 
confusion. ^^ Afar more sophisticated inquiry into Hamlet's moral deficiency 
is developed by John S. Wilks, through application of the notion of "errone- 
ous conscience," which he traces to sixteenth and seventeenth century 
texts. ^"^ In contrast, Catherine Belsey finds that conscience inhibits Hamlet's 
resolve. ^^ Bertram Joseph unfolds a more technical analysis of the subject, 



50 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

by foregrounding the Elizabethan distinction between conscience and scru- 
ple. '^ His views are capably qualified by Carole T. Diffey.^^ 

The locus classicus for the breakdown of practical reason in Hamlet is 
the "To be" soliloquy. Here, the deliberation concerns the means (either "to 
be" or "not to be") most appropriate to realizing the end (optimization of 
inner nobility): "whether 'tis nobler in the mind ..." (3.1.57). But, instead 
of enabling "choice" (3.2.63) or "election" (64) {e lectio) of appropriate 
means, Hamlet's deliberation {consilium) rejects both alternatives and renders 
discrimination between them problematic. Hence, at bottom, the soliloquy 
concerns, not choosing, but the deconstruction of choice. To choose "to be" is 
to aggravate revulsion for it and hence to intensify the longing not to be. But to 
choose "not to be" is to elect an analogous version of the unpredictability 
afflicting "to be." As formulated in the soliloquy, life (to be) is as much 
susceptible to unrelenting unpredictability as is the sleep of death (not to be). 
In one, the cause of unpredictability is fortune; in the other, dreams. There is 
thus no means by which to achieve the assumed end concerning inner nobility. 
Indeed, far from optimising the nobility and "sovereignty" (1 .4.73) of the mind, 
both alternatives subvert it: one subjects the mind to dreams over which it has 
no control; the other subjects the mind to impugning the debilitating effects of 
its own thinking: "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all" (3.1.83). 
Moreover, the deliberation constituting the soliloquy concludes, not with the 
consent (consensus) given by the will to a rational choice, but with an explicit 
weakening of the will through loss of "resolution" (3.1.84). 

The implications of this result are far-reaching. To begin with, according 
to Christian-humanist ethics, determining nobility or moral value "in the 
mind" is the definitive function of practical reason — in all instances, not 
just this one. That is, the mind, through its operation as practical reason, is 
itself the standard by which moral value is judged. Only practical reason can 
formulate ends which are truly and unambiguously worthy of intention and 
ensuing action. Gilson explains: "What is good, for a rational being, is what 
agrees with its rational nature and, consequently, with reason."^ ^ Grisez 
elaborates: "The end is the first principle in matters of action; reason orders 
to the end; therefore, reason is the principle of action. "^^ But in the "To be" 
soliloquy, the role of practical reason is radically problematized. Reason 
orders to the end (by formulating the goal of nobility "in the mind"), but 
subsequently undermines that very end, through impugning the "pale cast of 
thought" by which reason or the mind operates (3.1.85). To transpose 
Ophelia's words from another context, the "noble mind is here o'erthrown" 
(3.1.152), not by loss of reason, but by the very exercise of reason. That is. 



Eric P. Levy / The Predicament of Practical Reason in Hamlet 1 5 1 

reason forfeits its nobility or pre-eminent value when what it thinks about is 
the negative effect of its own cogitation.^^ 

We reach now the hidden "question" (3.1.56) in the soliloquy. If prac- 
tical reason is the supreme principle of action, what principle remains to 
guide or justify action when reason rankly abuses its own reasoning? The 
undiscovered irony of the soliloquy is that, in this celebrated deliberation on 
suicide, practical reason simulates "self- slaughter" (1.2.132). The notorious 
problem of Hamlet's delay becomes more manageable in this context. 
Inaction now pertains, not to some flaw or factor inhering in Hamlet, but to 
a questioning of the rational principle which, in virtue of its "sovereignty" 
(1.5.73) regarding the formulation of ends and means, directs action. 

The Blurring of Moral Distinctions 

The predicament of practical reason in the world of the play can be clarified 
by reference to Laertes, whose correspondence to Hamlet is noted by Hamlet 
himself: "For by the image of my cause I see / The portraiture of his" 
(5.2.77-78). In his own approach to revenge, Laertes appears at first to 
display complete lack of moral discrimination. More precisely, his only 
principle of discrimination seems to be efficacy. Any "means" (4.5.138) are 
acceptable so long as they succeed in achieving the intended end — revenge: 
"Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!" (4.5.132). But closer anal- 
ysis reveals that the act of revenge is here construed as directed, not merely 
against its victim, but against morality itself. In response to Claudius' query 
regarding what he would "undertake / To show yourself in deed your father's 
son" (4.7. 122-23), Laertes replies, "To cut his throat i'th church" (125). Here 
obligation (that-which-should-be-done) entails effacing prohibition (that- 
which-should-«<9f-be-done, in this case epitomized by the sacrilege of mur- 
der in the cathedral). But to fulfill that-which-should-be-done by committing 
that-which-should-n<9r-be-done is to disable practical reason, whose proper 
functioning presupposes these moral distinctions, as Grisez indicates: "The 
primary precepts of practical reason . . . concern the things-to-be-done that 
practical reason naturally grasps as human goods, and the things-to-avoided 
that are opposed to those goods."^'* Thus, just as, after Polonius' death, 
Ophelia's words constitute a "document in madness" (4.5.176), so Laertes' 
revengeful boasts also express madness. But in his case the malfunction of 
rationality concerns practical, not speculative, reason. 

The predicament of practical reason is further evident in the plot which 
Claudius prepares against Hamlet: "I will work him / To an exploit, now ripe 
in my device, / Under the which he shall not choose but fair (4.7.63-65, my 
emphasis). Here, as in the "To be" soliloquy, the power of choice is neutral- 



52 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

ized through elimination of the distinction between available alternatives. 
Whatever is chosen, the same consequence will result. This plight, of course, 
mimics the inevitability of fate. But whereas fate, as conventionally con- 
strued, determines what will happen regardless of individual choice, here 
choice itself is constrained with regard to the alternatives available for 
choosing. That is, as a result of Claudius' unscrupulous "forgery of shapes 
and tricks" (4.7.88), his victim will be unable to distinguish the right choice 
from the wrong one. Thus, practical reason is disabled and rendered incapa- 
ble of proceeding properly from deliberation (consilium) to choice (electio). 

The Rectification of Moral Discrimination 

Through a process analogous to the purgation mentioned by the Ghost and 
the penitent "purging" (3.3.85) attempted by Claudius, Hamlet progressively 
corrects the tendency to blur moral distinctions, though he never completely 
rectifies it. Indeed, in the world of the play, the ability to distinguish infallibly 
between good and evil with respect to action pertains exclusively to divine, 
and not human, or fallen, judgment. There — and only there — "the action 
lies / In his true nature" (3.3.61-62). Elsewhere, the accuracy of judgment 
is compromised by local conditions, such as those disguising or "shuffling" 
(3.3.61) the moral nature of the object judged or distorting the perspective 
of the subject judging. This predicament is, of course, epitomized by the 
apparitions of the Ghost, which foreground both the moral ambiguity of the 
perceived object ("The spirit I have seen / May be a devil . . ." [2.2.594-95] 
and the instability of the subject perceiving it: Horatio warns that it may 
"assume some other horrible form / Which might deprive your sovereignty 
of reason" (1.5.72-73). 

Ironically, the Ghost, who is thus associated with the problem of moral 
confusion^ is also the catalyst — one might almost say the inspiration — for 
Hamlet's own development of moral discrimination. The first indication of 
this process concems the stratagem which Hamlet concocts in order to verify 
the Ghost's testimony regarding the guilt of Claudius: "The play's the thing / 
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King" (2.2.600-1). The resounding 
success of this tactic leads Hamlet to further enhancement of his moral 
discrimination while Claudius is praying. In deciding to postpone revenge 
until a moment when Claudius' comportment has "no relish of salvation in't" 
(3.3.92) and thus will assure his relegation to "hell" (95), Hamlet is not, as 
some critics argue, identifying himself with demonic evil whose sole intent 
is to secure the damnation of its victim.^^ Instead, he is affirming that the 
individual, construed as moral agent, is always redeemable or, to use the 
philosophical formulation, in potency to redemption, if only his or her 



Eric P. Levy / The Predicament of Practical Reason in Hamlet / 53 

current actions merit it. That is, the project to ensnare Claudius in evil 
presupposes his aptitude to do good. Even in the avatar of vice ("Remorse- 
less, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!" [2.2.577]), Hamlet recognizes 
capacity for virtue. 

Hamlet's moral discrimination undergoes further focussing in 
Gertrude's closet. There he initially sees Gertrude only in terms of "habits 
evil" (3.4.164), whose root and sustaining cause is faulty moral discrimina- 
tion regarding her two husbands: "what judgment / Would step from this to 
this?" (3.4.70-71). But in thus devastating Gertrude with awareness of fault 
("These words like daggers enter into my ears" [3.4.94]), Hamlet ironically 
displays a defective discrimination analogous to that which he attributes to 
her. As Gertrude's terrified query indicates ("Thou wouldst not murder me?" 
[3.4.20]), he condemns her fault as violently as he does the crime of 
Claudius. His inability to make accurate moral distinctions indicates a 
malfunctioning of practical reason, and hence ironizes Gertrude's reference 
to madness when Hamlet suddenly begins talking to a Ghost whom she 
cannot see: "Alas, he's mad" (3.4.106). 

But, after the Ghost directs his attention to Gertrude's vulnerability 
("Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works" [3.4.114]), Hamlet shifts from 
haranguing her about moral fault to encouraging her toward moral improve- 
ment: "O throw away the worser part of it / And live the purer with the other 
half (159-60). That is, he is enabled to distinguish good from evil in the 
same individual — just as he did when Claudius was praying. Yet whereas, 
when contemplating Claudius, Hamlet exploits the ability to distinguish 
good from evil (or "worser" from "purer") as a means of maximizing the 
eventual punishment of his victim, with Gertrude he directs the distinction 
of "worser" from "purer" toward the end of expediting moral rehabilitation. 
Moreover, in admonishing Gertrude not to shirk this rehabilitation by claim- 
ing that her "vice" is but a figment of his own insanity, Hamlet explicitly 
links the proper functioning of reason with accurate moral discrimination: 
"Mother, for the love of grace, / Lay not that flattering unction to your soul, / 
That not your trespass but my madness speaks" (3.4.156, 146-48). 

The enhancement of Hamlet's discrimination during the scene in 
Gertrude's closet has crucial implications, and therefore warrants elabora- 
tion. For here the same means (insistence on recognition of fault) serve 
different ends: punishment of evil and achievement of good. Before the 
intrusion of the Ghost, Hamlet's insistence on Gertrude's recognition of her 
fault is based on the need to punish evil, just as was his immediately 
preceding decision to defer the assassination of Claudius: "Let me be cruel, 
not unnatural. / 1 will speak daggers to her, but use none" (3.2.386). But after 



54 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

Hamlet's colloquy with the Ghost, the same insistence on recognition of fault 
is based on the need to foster moral improvement: "This bad begins, and 
worse remains behind" (3.4.181). 

Nevertheless, the need to punish remains a hallmark of Hamlet's char- 
acter. Indeed, he identifies himself with punitive function while lugging 
Polonius' corpse out of Gertrude's closet: "but heaven hath pleas'd it so, / 
To punish me with this and this with me, / That I must be their scourge and 
minister" (3.4.175-77). The same need to punish informs his later consign- 
ment of Rosencrantz and Guildenstem to instant execution, "[n]ot shriving- 
time allow' d" (5.2.47), upon their arrival in England. Fredson Bowers has 
even argued that the entire problem of delay can be explained in terms of 
Hamlet's waiting for Providence to provide the opportunity for him as its 
"minister" (3.4.177) or agent to punish Claudius .^^ But to reduce Hamlet's 
motivation to the punishing of evil is to obscure completely the process by 
which he clarifies the good, and therefore redefines the end or purpose of 
human action. For, as Gilson indicates, "Morality consists in ordering all 
human acts in view of the true good, which is the true end."^^ 

In fact, to the extent that Hamlet does conduct himself as a minister of 
punishment, he tends to vitiate moral distinctions by meting out to all his 
victims the same condemnation to death. This confusing of moral distinc- 
tions is strikingly implied in his initial response to the inadvertent murder of 
Polonius: "Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell. / / took thee for thy 
better'' (3.4.31-32, my emphasis). Here, the term, "better," is significantly 
ambiguous. On one level, it simply refers to the distinction in social rank 
between Polonius and the Claudius. But on another, in a scene where the 
issue of moral "judgment" (3.4.71) is urgently foregrounded, it inevitably 
suggests a distortion of discrimination whereby Polonius is deemed morally 
inferior to Claudius. But if there is no accurate discrimination of grades of 
defect or evil, there can be no accurate discrimination of grades of good. 
Without certain demarcation of limits, good and evil eventually coincide, 
engendering the very confusion which Hamlet associates with Gertrude: "for 
madness would not err / Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thralled / But it 
reserv'd some quantity of choice/To serve in such a difference" (3.4.73-76). 

The Sources of Moral Confusion 

Ultimately, the confusion of moral distinctions in Hamlet pertains, not 
merely to defects in particular agents with respect to moral discrimination, 
but to ambiguities in morality itself. As construed in the play, the end of 
action is favourable "judgment" (3.4.70) of the agent acting. In life, the terms 
of judgment are "honour" (5.2.242, 244) and "dishonour" (2.1.21, 27); in 



Eric P. Levy / The Predicament of Practical Reason in Hamlet 1 55 

death, "salvation" (5.1.2) and "damnation" (4.5.136). Though the terms of 
judgment applying respectively in life and death differ, and though in one 
case judgment is construed as fallible and susceptible to "tricks" (4.5.5; 
5.1.98), while in the other (where "the action lies / In his true nature" 
[3.3.61-62]) it is not, both levels of justice are retributive in that they mete 
out punishment and reward. But in this context, the moral quality of action 
becomes problematic. For it is difficult to determine whether the moral act 
— the act performed in "perfect conscience" (5.2.67) — is, at bottom, 
opportunistic or truly ethical and therefore (to borrow Kant's phrase) "sun- 
dered from all view to any advantage in this or another world. "^^ In other 
words, it is difficult to determine whether acting morally is a means to an 
end or an end in itself. ^^ 

The predicament of morality in Hamlet can be analyzed further. As 
William James has observed, "morality says that some things are better than 
other things."^^ But the dominant morality in the world of the play offers no 
stable criterion of valuation in terms "better, and worse" (3.2.245). Instead 
of such a criterion, constant in itself independently of its relation to that 
which is evaluated by it, there is only the imitation of example. More 
precisely, in applying the "terms of honour" (5.2.242) to a given situation, 
the individual is judged, not according to an invariable model of moral 
perfection, but in reference to whatever behavioural exemplars pertain to his 
or her case. The proper relation between morality and action is therefore 
reversed. Instead of determining the worth of action according to inviolable 
principles, morality is made dependent on comparative performance.^^ In 
these circumstances, the notion of better and worse is reduced to competition, 
where each individual attempts to outdo the example set by others: "... 'twould 
be a sight indeed / If one could match you" (4.7.98-99). Indeed, Hamlet berates 
Laertes for exactly this motivation: "Dost come here to whine, / To outface me 
with leaping in her grave?" (5.1.271-72). Earlier, he admonishes the players 
not to indulge in such competitive exaggeration: "I would have such a fellow 
whipped for o'erdoing Termagant. It out-Herods Herod" (3.2.13-14). 

In this dispensation, exaggeration inevitably distorts or debases the very 
model it emulates. Moreover, the model itself is not absolute, but varies 
according to the examples manifesting it. Construed as the best of relevant 
examples, the model is no better than its superlative instantiation, which, in 
turn, can eventually be superseded. Indeed, the competitive mentality fos- 
tered by this morality demands that the best should be superseded. Hence, 
the model does not function as a genuine ideal; for as Werner Jaeger notes, 
"[t]he essence of an ideal state is that anything different from it is bound to 
be worse."^^ As already suggested, Hamlet eventually repudiates the com- 



56 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

petitive morality. Though at first reproaching himself for not dramatizing his 
emotions as would a professional player in his situation ("What would he do 
/ Had he the motive and the cue for passion / That I have?" [2.2.554-56]), 
by the time of the fatal duel Hamlet has overcome concern for competitive 
performance: "I will win for him and I can; if not, I will gain nothing but my 
shame and the odd hits" (5.2.173-75). 

The Moral Consequences of Meditation on Death 

It is obvious that Hamlet's intervening meditations on death leaven his 
readiness to disregard competitive distinctions. All the dead are equally dead, 
and their remains equally malodorous: "And smelt so? Pah!" (5.1.194). But 
meditation on death affords Hamlet an insight more profound than the 
recognition that all the paths of glory lead but to the grave. For death not 
only erases distinctions of relative status among individuals by subjecting 
all "humanity" (3.2.35) impartially to the same inevitable process of corrup- 
tion and decomposition. More profoundly, death transforms the end or 
purpose of human individuality. Whereas the living are defined by the quality 
of their respective purposes and the constancy of their commitment to them 
("I am constant to my purposes" [5.2.197]), the dead (construed in physical 
terms) can fulfill only the purposes imposed on them, as for example in the 
"loam" (5.1.203) of Alexander employed in "stopping a bung-hole" (198). 
In death, the purpose of the individual is no longer to formulate and 
consummate his own ends, but to be the means to an end beyond himself: 
"Your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service — two dishes, 
but to one table. That's the end" (4.3.23-25); "To what base uses we may 
return, Horatio!" (5.1.196). 

Ironically, Hamlet's insight concerning the status of individuality in 
death becomes the basis for his climactic anagnorisis about life: ^There's a 
divinity that shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will" (5.2.10-11). 
Just as the dead, construed as mere matter, are means to ends which exceed 
their awareness, so the living, construed as agents striving to fulfill their 
respective purposes, are also means to ends "beyond the reaches" (1.4.56) 
of their awareness. It is crucial to note how Hamlet here at once invokes and 
transcends humanist ethics, where, as Walter Jackson Bate indicates, the end 
of the individual is to "to complete himself: to carry out, to the fullest extent, 
what is best and most distinctive in him" (original emphasis).^^ For, accord- 
ing to Hamlet's anagnorisis, the supreme end is completion, not of the 
individual or part, but of the whole or design in which it participates. In fact, 
in serving this end, the individual sacrifices the integrity or completion of 



Eric P. Levy / The Predicament of Practical Reason in Hamlet 1 57 

his own identity: "O God, Horatio, what a wounded name, / Things standing 
thus unknown, shall I leave behind me" (5.2.349-50). 

Analysis of Hamlet's spontaneous revision of the "commission" (5.2.26) 
purveyed by Rosencrantz and Guildenstem illustrates. In reporting his 
tactics to Horatio, Hamlet describes, in literally dramatic terms, his conster- 
nation on discovering Claudius' plot to have him executed on English soil: 
"Or I could make a prologue to my brains, / They had begun the play*' 
(5.2.30-31, my emphasis). In rewriting the commission, Hamlet simulta- 
neously alters the "play" in which Claudius has trapped him. Ironically, of 
course, Hamlet is the central character in another play which he cannot 
change — the one bearing his name. The subsumption, in that larger play, 
of all the "single and peculiar" (3.3.11) ends of the various characters therein 
depicted becomes the analogue and exemplum of the "divinity that shapes 
our ends." For the ends of characters are ultimately subservient to the 
dramatic and thematic exigencies of the play in which they appear. 3"* 

Thus, Hamlet's recognition — whether construed religiously or dramat- 
ically — is the opposite of his "nutshell" (2.2.254) vision, where the whole 
or totality has no meaning; for it has shrunk to the volume of the part. An 
ironic reference to whole and part appears in Rosencrantz' adumbration of 
Claudius' death: "Never alone / Did the King sigh, but with a general groan" 
(3.3.22-23). But here the relation of part to whole is reversed. Instead of 
contributing to completion of the whole, the part now dominates the whole, 
with catastrophically destructive effect. Perhaps this is the most revealing 
distinction between Claudius and Hamlet. One, through his "majesty" 
(3.3.15), exploits the whole as the means to satisfy his own ends. The other, 
through his readiness, ultimately achieves a view of the whole through which 
individual ends achieve their supreme "consummation" (3.1.63). 

Self-defense vs. Self-transcendence 

Moral discrimination in Hamlet can be probed further. A primary premiss in 
the world of the play is that the purpose of life is self-defense. Rosencrantz 
offers a seminal formulation: "The single and peculiar life is bound / With 
all the strength and armour of the mind / To keep itself from noyance" 
(3.3.11-13). Indeed, the motif of self-defense ramifies throughout the play, 
and includes, not only physical protection, but moral and psychological 
security: a "strict and most observant watch" (1.1.74) is conducted to defend 
Denmark against possible invasion by young Fortinbras of Norway; Laertes 
warns Ophelia to remain "Out of the shot and danger of desire" with respect 
to Hamlet (1.3.35); Hamlet admonishes Ophelia to defend herself against 
"calumny" (3.1.138) by retiring to a "nunnery" (3.1.141); Claudius plots the 



58 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



"present death of Hamlet" (4.3.68) in a vain attempt to assure his own safety. 
Similarly, Hamlet's project of revenge, undertaken for the sake of his 
murdered father, is construed as retaliation for an attack mounted during the 
victim's presumed "secure hour" (1.5.61): "Upon whose property and most 
dear life/ A damn'd^e/i?ar was made" (2.2.565-66, my emphasis). Likewise, 
Fortinbras, lurking near the borders of Denmark, is presumed to be preparing 
a retaliation for the fatal defeat of his father by the "conqueror" and 
"vanquisher," Hamlet, Sr. (1.1.92, 96). 

The "To be" soliloquy constitutes the reductio ad absurdum of the 
doctrine that the purpose of life is self-defense. For here, as we have seen, 
life is conceived as self-defeating damage control, with the individual 
withdrawn into the fortress of the mind, behind "the pales and forts of 
reason" (1 .4.28), only there to sap and mine unseen confidence in the worth 
of thinking. The same notion of self-defeating self-defense is applied to the 
death of Ophelia, who, according to the Grave-digger's interlocutor, has 
been granted "Christian burial" (5.1.4-5) on the grounds that "she drowned 
herself in her own defense" (6-7). The futility of self-defense is suggested, 
too, in the inability of the aged Priam to protect himself against the raging 
Pyrrhus: "His antique sword, / Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls" 
(2.2.465-66). 

In the attitude of self-defense, purpose extends no further than the 
avoidance of or retaliation for defeat. Others are either allies or enemies to 
be morally distinguished accordingly. Paradoxically, the Ghost who utters 
the revenge imperative is also associated with a state beyond concern for 
self-defense: "For it is as the air, invulnerable, / And our vain blows 
malicious mockery" (1 .1 .150-5 1). Indeed, his resignation to suffering for "a 
certain term" (1.5.10) in purgatorial "fires" (11) obviously suggests a moral 
purpose higher than self-defense. Similarly, when advised not to follow the 
Ghost, Hamlet explicitly discards concern for self-defense: "And for my 
soul, what can it do to that, / Being a thing immortal as itself?" (1 .4.66-67). 

In Hamlet's eventual recognition regarding end-shaping divinity, indi- 
vidual purpose concerns, not self-defense, but self-transcendence. For, from 
this perspective, though capable of formulating or rough-hewing particular 
ends by the operation of practical reason, the individual can neither compre- 
hend nor determine their ultimate object or consequence. Here, as we have 
seen, the adequation of agent to end or purpose is achieved, not through 
intention and action only, but through the participation of individual purpose 
in the totality of purposes which both complete and transcend it.^^ 

University of British Columbia 



Eric P. Levy / The Predicament of Practical Reason in Hamlet 1 59 



Notes 

1. William Shakespeare, Hamlet, ed. Harold Jenkins (London: Methuen, 1982), 3.2.20-22. 
All quotations from Hamlet pertain to this edition, and will henceforth be indicated 
parenthetically in the text. 

2. Heracleitus of Ephesus, Fragment 119, in Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers: A 
Complete Translation of the Fragments in Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, trans. 
Kathleen Freeman (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966). 

3. Ernst Cassirer, An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1944), p. 9. 

4. Critical opinion concerning Hamlet's delay can be grouped topically: (a) lack of enthusiasm 
for an outdated revenge imperative: René Girard, "Hamlet's Dull Revenge," Stanford 
Literature Review 1 (1984): 159-200; see also Eugene England, ''Hamlet Against 
Revenge," Literature and Belief 1 (1987): 49-62, and Mark Matheson, ''Hamlet and 'A 
Matter Tender and Dangerous,'" Shakespeare Quarterly 46 (1995): 385. Similarly, Janis 
Lull, "Forgetting Hamlet: The First Quarto and the Folio," in The Hamlet First Published 
(Ql, 1603): Origin, Form, Intertextualities, ed. James Clayton (Newark: University of 
Delaware Press, 1992), pp. 137-150, Hnks delay with the conflict between "Honour and 
Providence," and attributes the latter factor to the growing "demands of Protestant con- 
science" during the interval between the First Quarto (1603) and the First Folio of 1623 
(pp. 145-46). Ronald G. Shafer, "Hamlet: Christian or Humanist?" Studies in the Human- 
ities 1 (1990): 21-35, discusses Hamlet's movement from a "humanistic" standard to a 
"providentially governed" one. Curtis Brown Watson, Shakespeare and the Renaissance 
Concept of Honour (1960; rpt. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1976), also notes the "ethical 
inconsistency" (p. 131) of the Tudor era, as do Fredson Bowers, Elizabethan Revenge 
Tragedy, ] 587-1 642 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1940), p. 40, and C. L. Barber, 
The Idea of Honour in the English Drama: 1591-1700 (Goteborg: Elanders, 1957), p. 331. 
(b) obligation to wait for Providence to provide an opportunity: Fredson Bowers, Hamlet 
as Minister and Scourge and Other Studies in Shakespeare and Milton (Charlottesville: 
University of Virginia Press, 1989) pp. 90-101; Roland Mushat Frye, The Renaissance 
Hamlet: Issues and Responses in 1600 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 
268; and Irving Ribner, Patterns in Shakespearean Tragedy (London: Methuen, 1960), pp. 
65-88. (c) moral ambiguity of the Ghost: Arthur McGee, The Elizabethan Hamlet (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), pp. 43-74; Eleanore Prosser, Hamlet and Revenge, 
2nd ed. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971), pp. 122-43; Philip Edwards, 'Tragic 
Balance in Hamlet," Shakespeare Survey 36 (1983): 46; Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Prince 
of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University 
Press, 1 988), pp. 1 82-85. For relevant bibliographies, see Miriam C. S. C. Joseph, "Hamlet, 
A Christian Tragedy," Studies in Philology 59 (1962): 119nl, and John S. Wilks, 'The 
Discourse of Reason: Justice and Erroneous Conscience in Hamlet," Shakespeare Studies 
18 (1986): 143nl0. (d) character flaw: (i) melancholy: A.C. Bradley, Shakespearean 
Tragedy (\904', London: Macmillan, 1956), pp. 120-128. For a brief bibliography of critics 
accepting Bradley's conclusion, see Paul N. Siegel, '"Hamlet, Revenge!': The Uses and 
Abuses of Historical Criticism," Shakespeare Survey 45 (1993): 19n27. For post-Freudian 
interpretations of melancholy, see Theodore Lidz, Hamlet's Enemy: Madness and Myth in 
Hamlet (New York: Basic Books, 1975), pp. 195-205; and Arthur Kirsch, "Hamlet's Grief," 
ELH 48 (1981): 17-36. McGee, pp. 100-1, offers a bibliography of opinions relating 
Hamlet to Renaissance theories of melancholy, (ii) immaturity or playfulness: Anna K. 
Nardo, "A Man to Double Business Bound," Shakespeare Quarterly 34 (1983): 189-90; 



60 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Richard A. Lanham, The Motives of Eloquence: Literary Rhetoric in the Renaissance (New 
Haven: Yale University Press, 1976), p. 137; Charles H. Chfton, "Hamlet Ludens: The 
Importance of Playing in Hamlet" Selected Papers from the West Virginian Shakespeare 
and Renaissance Association 6 (1981): 35-41; and G.A. Wilkes, '"An Understanding 
Simple and Unschooled': The 'Immaturity' of Hamlet," Sydney Studies in English 1 
(1975-76): 69-75. (iii) excessive intellectualizing: Martin Wiggins, "Hamlet and the 
Damnation of Claudius," English Review 1.3 (1991): 2-4. (iv) self-consciousness: Daniel 
W. Ross, "Revising a Map Misread: Hamlet, Romantic Self-Consciousness, and the Roots 
of Modem Tragedy," in Ronald Dotterer, éd., Shakespeare: Text, Subtext, and Context 
(Selingrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 1989), pp. 107-23. (v) moral attitude 
toward violence: Bert G. Homback, "Hamlet's Heroism," Colby Quarterly 30 (1994): 
291-97. (e) Oedipal factors: Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. James 
Strachey (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975), pp. 366-68; Ernest Jones, Hamlet and Oedipus 
(1949; New York: Norton, 1976). For a recent neo-Oedipal explication, see Janet Adelman, 
Suffocating Mothers: Fantasies of Maternal Origin in Shakespeare's Plays: Hamlet to The 
Tempest (New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 33. (f) denial that delay occurs: J. Philip 
Brockbank, "Hamlet the Bonesetter," Shakespeare Survey 30 (1977): 109-10; John A.S. 
Phillips, "Why Does Hamlet Delay? — Hamlet's Subtle Revenge," Anglia: Zeitschrift fur 
englishe Philologie 98 (1980): 34-50. 

5. Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Prov- 
ince (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1952), I, Q. 79, A. 1 1, ad. 2. 

6. Etienne Gilson, The Philosophy of St. Bonaventure, trans. Dom Illtyd Trethowan and F.J. 
Sheed (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1938), p. 418. Cf Jacques Maritain, Art and Scholasti- 
cism with Other Essays, trans. J. F. Scanlon (1930; rpt. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries 
Press, 1971), p. 5: "The mind as a faculty is a complete self- subsisting whole, but it goes 
to work very differently according as it has knowledge for the sake of knowing or for the 
sake of doing." 

7. Germain G. Grisez, "The First Principle of Practical Reason: A Commentary on the Summa 
theologiae, 1-2, Question 94, Article 2," in Aquinas: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. 
Anthony Kenny (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969), p. 350. 

8. John of St. Thomas, quoted by Maritain, pp. 116-17nl4. 

9. Etienne Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York: Random 
House, 1955), p. 380. 

10. Charles S. Singleton, trans, and éd.. The Divine Comedy, by Dante Ahghieri, 3 vols., 
BolHngen Series 80 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), 1.2.9. 

11. Cf Etienne Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, trans. L. K. Shook 
(New York: Octagon Books, 1956), p. 260: "the movement by which the will tends toward 
a certain end is called intention." 

12. Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, trans. W. D. Ross, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. 
Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), III. 2. llllb26-28. 

13. Aquinas, I-II, Q. 14, A 2. resp. Cf. Etienne Gilson, The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, 
3rd rev. and enl. ed., trans. Edward Bullough, ed. G. A. Elrington (1937; rpt. Freeport, NY: 
Books for Libraries Press, 1971), p. 308: "The intention of the end, being the very principle 
whence the action started, cannot be called in question. If the end should come to be the 
object of deliberation, it could not be qua end, but merely in so far as it may be considered 
in its turn as the means to a further end." 



Eric P. Levy / The Predicament of Practical Reason in Hamlet / 61 

14. Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy, p. 380. Cf. Gilson, The Christian Philosophy of 
St. Thomas Aquinas, p. 254: "Deliberation brings us to a point where we observe that several 
means are capable of bringing us to the end toward which we are tending. Each of these 
means pleases us, and to the extent that it does, we cleave to it. But of all these means which 
please us, we at last choose one, and such choice belongs properly to an act of election 
(electio)." 

15. William Perkins, "A Discourse of Conscience," in William Perkins 1 558-1602, English 
Puritanist: His Pioneer Works on Casuistry, ed. Thomas F. Merrill (Nieuwkoop: De Graaf, 
1966), pp. 1-78. 

16. T. McAlindon, Shakespeare and Decorum (London: Macmillan, 1973), p. 61. 

17. Wilks,pp. 117^t4. 

18. Catherine Belsey, "The Case of Hamlet's Conscience," Studies in Philology 76 (1979): 
127-48. 

19. Bertram Joseph, Conscience and the King (London: Chatto & Windus, 1953), p. 128. 

20. Carole T. Diffey, "'Such Large Discourse': The Role of 'Godlike Reason' in Hamlet," 
Hamlet Studies 11.1-2 (1989): 22-33. 

21. Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy, p. 380. 

22. Grisez, p. 359. 

23. Cf Dante: "This word 'nobleness' means the perfection in each thing of its proper nature" 
{Convivio 4. 16.4, quoted and trans. Singleton, éd.. The Divine Comedy, 1 .2.24). According 
to Aquinas, "the intellect is the highest and noblest of the parts of the soul" (III. Q. 6, A. 2. 
resp.) 

24. Grisez, p. 355. 

25. For representative arguments concerning the primacy of evil in the play, see McGee, pp. 
43-74, and Jeffrey Burton Russell, The Prince of Darkness: Radical Evil and the Power of 
Good in History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988), pp. 182-85. 

26. Bowers, Hamlet as Minister and Scourge, pp. 90-101 . 

27. Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy, p. 7 1 5n 1 1 8. 

28. Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, trans. Lewis White Beck 
(Indianapolis: Library of the Liberal Arts, 1959), p. 27n2. 

29. Cf Plato, Gorgias, trans W. D. Woodhead, in Plato: The Collected Dialogues, ed. Edith 
Hamilton and Huntington Cairns, BoUingen Series 71 (New York: Bollingen, 1961), 499e: 
"Do you too share our opinion, that the good is the end of all actions and that everything 
else should be done for its sake, not the good for the sake of everything else?" 

30. William James, "The Will To Believe," Essays in Pragmatism, ed. Alburey Castell (New 
York:Hafner, 1948), p. 105. 

31. Cf Kant, p. 25: "Imitation has no place in moral matters, and examples serve only for 
encouragement." 

32. Werner Jaeger, Paideia: the Ideals of Greek Culture, trans. Gilbert Highet, 3 vols. (New 
York: Oxford University Press, 1943), 2: 237. Cf Ernst Cassirer on Plato's Republic: "What 
he is asking for is not the best but the 'ideal' state" {The Myth of the State [New Haven: 
Yale University Press, 1946], p. 69). 



62 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



33. Walter Jackson Bate, Introduction, Criticism: The Major Texts, ed. Walter Jackson Bate 
(New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1952), p. 6. 

34. For reference to "metatheatrical issues" raised in Hamlet, see Kellie Harrison Bean, "The 
End Is in the Beginning: Story Telling in Shakespeare, Beckett (and Stoppard)," in Past 
Crimson, Past Woe: The Shakespeare-Beckett Connection, ed. Anne Marie Drew (New 
York: Garland, 1993), p. 118. See also the chapter, "Shakespeare's Theatrical SymboHsm 
and Its Function," in Charles R. Forker, Fancy's Images: Contexts, Settings, and Perspec- 
tives in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University 
Press, 1990), pp. 3-17. 

35. But according to William R. Morse, Hamlet's anagnorisis entails, not self-transcendence, 
but self-integration, whereby Hamlet constructs "an understanding of the wholeness of 
reality out of those elements of his own reality that suggest the possibility of wholeness" 
("Shakespearean Self-knowledge: The Synthesizing Imagination and the Limits of Rea- 
son," in Drama and Philosophy, vol. 12 of Themes in Drama, ed. James Redmond 
[Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990], p. 57). 



Books and Book-Form 

in Milton 



John K. Hale 



Résumé : Comment Milton voyait-il les livres, dans le sens littéral ainsi que 
métaphorique de « voir » ? Pour lui, comme pour Goethe, les livres impliquaient 
plusieurs aspects de la vie; ainsi il se sert de lieux communs traditionnels mais 
aussi de subtilités bibliographiques, ceux-là pour s'exprimer, celles-ci pour 
effectuer de la polémique caricaturale. Ces deux côtés de son engagement, avec 
d'autres, sont documentés dans le présent article à travers les genres et les 
langues de son écriture. C'était un intermédiaire multilingue, le dernier des 
anciens et dans les premiers rangs des nouveaux. 

Given the connections we feel between an "early modem" period and 
"print culture," we naturally ask how Milton viewed printed books, 
together with the particular forms of the book as printed. Did he have a 
constant, or changing, or ad hoc or literal or metaphorical, perception of the 
book? But the question needs careful definitions, and some recognition of 
work already done, before any general answering begins. 

To take the matter of recognition first, J. W. Saunders has explored 
Milton's changing attitude towards publication, arguing that in the tumultu- 
ous 1640s (and because of them) Milton changed from an older, more 
gentlemanly preference for manuscript publication to a commitment to 
present his views and himself in print. ^ D. F. McKenzie situates Milton's 
practice of print-utterance amongst the dialogic mid-century nexus of "Speech 
— Manuscript — Print."^ Neil Fraistat and others, including myself, have 
examined Milton's part in the self-presentation by means of print which is 
Poems, 1645.^ And this work continues in the writings of Stella Revard and 
Stephen Dobranski."^ Most of it, however, examines one or another portion 
of Milton's whole oeuvre. In this context, then, I see an opportunity to present 

Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 4 ( 1 999) /63 



64 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



a wider array of the primary evidence about Milton's perception — or 
perceptions — of books and their form, whether printed or other. 

As to definitions, the notion of "perception" is better than the vaguer 
"attitude" used above. Milton sharply observed the physical object, and its 
parts and attributes, as expressions of collaborative endeavour and person- 
ality. He continued this literal sense of perceiving, aurally, even after he went 
blind. But his metaphorical perceiving is equally prevalent and energizing: 
U major portion of my survey is given to his imaging of books, whether as 
people by personification, or as something else by his teeming metaphors 
and metonymies. The survey may suggest fresh lines of inquiry, not only 
about Milton but also about early-modem communicativeness. 

I start with Milton's most famously rhetorical perceptions, in 
Areopagitica — a locus classicus for themes of general liberty, as well as for 
the more particular perceptions which concern us here. Here is where he 
justifies the accolade bestowed by McKenzie, that by 1644 the press "had 
begun to create a parliament without walls, and Areopagitica was the first 
eloquent voice to be heard in it."^ I pursue these perceptions next into his 
prose of the 1640s, then his Poems of 1645, after which I probe the origins 
of these virtually credal acts of commitment of the 1640s, when he found his 
public voice through his books. I then come to the major English poems, 
which are naturally taken as the testing or extending or completing of his 
utterances in prose or lesser verse. Yet are they, from our standpoint, sui 
generis, untypical, and less of their age? And do they look forward or back? 



I. The Perception of Books in Areopagitica 

Milton perceives books intensely by perceiving them in images. In case his 
most famous ones are staled by familiarity and partial quotation, I give the 
locus classicus in full and note its logic of qualifications, in order to 
defamiliarize the images and so restore their centrality: 

I deny not, but that it is of greatest concemment in the Church and Commonwealth, to 
have a vigilant eye how Bookes demeane themselves as well as men; and thereafter to 
confine, imprison, and do sharpest justice on them as malefactors: For Books are not 
absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that 
soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie 
and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. I know they are as lively, and as 
vigorously productive, as those fabulous Dragons teeth; and being sown up and down, 
may chance to spring up armed men. And yet on the other hand unlesse warinesse be 
us'd, as good almost kill a Man as kill a good Book; who kills a Man kills a reasonable 
creature, Gods Image; but hee who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe, kills 
the Image of God, as it were in the eye. Many a man Uves a burden to the Earth; but a 



John K. Hale / Books and Book-Form in Milton / 65 



good Booke is the prêtions life-blood of a master spirit, imbalm'd and treasur'd up on 
purpose to a life beyond life. 

The first sentence is ostensibly concessive ("I deny not")' governments 
naturally exercise vigilance towards books, for books have power, influence 
action, and may do harm, "as malefactors." But already concession turns into 
praise, since books "preserve" intellect as phials preserve medicines. The 
second sentence works in the same way: dragon's teeth in the myth of 
Cadmus image danger and violence, yet they led to his founding a city. The 
concessions contain their own concessions. 

The rhetorical direction now becomes overt, in the amplitude of the 
awaited antithesis: "And yet on the other hand unlesse. ..." Milton makes 
his "Speech ... To the Parlament of England" in a crisis where censorship 
has gone too far, stifling the causes of reformation and of freedom. Qualifi- 
cations are now over: Milton proclaims in his greatest image, a perception 
of books which he has already insinuated. 

In the first sentence, books "demean themselves": they behave, well or 
badly, as persons do. Books "are not absolutely dead things" — not merely 
dead, not merely things. They live on, as the "progeny" of their authors, or 
rather ("nay") as their distilled, most efficacious essence (precious, sweet- 
smelling or medicinal). 

The third sentence swings from insinuation to proclamation through 
imagery. The upper-case letters steer the perception as a whole: Man/Book, 
expanding into Man/Gods/Image//Booke/Image/God. The resemblance of 
books to men was commonplace: the hangman destroyed both when told to. 
But Milton rejuvenates the commonplace wondrously, suggesting that to 
destroy a good book "almost" equates with murder. It is an "almost" which 
stresses what it denies. The images are growing bolder all the time. If in the 
biblical account Man is God*s express image (Gen. 1 :26), it is through human 
reason; but a good book is more completely reasonable than its own author, 
it epitomizes reason. Thus, it seems, a good book is more fully God's Image 
than Man is. 

Next, a good book is rapidly imaged as valuable, living, spiritual, and 
masterful, preserved and preserving, precious again, and deliberately aiming 
at immortality — posthumous reputation given religious force by the con- 
notations of "life beyond life." 

Just as Milton printed this blast against licensing without licensing it, 
and put his name defiantly on the title-page, so he perceived himself as 
putting a "good book" of his own into the company of the ones used on his 
title-page as exemplars. Those were, first, the Supplices of Euripides, 
Theseus' defence of a citizen's right to speak his mind on vital state matters; 



66 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

next, the "Areopagiticus" of Isocrates, a speech about policy designed to be 
read, not spoken; and, finally. Saint Paul's speech about God's words to the 
"men of Athens" "in the midst of Mars' hill" — the eponymous "Areopa- 
gus."^ Milton's perception of books rises to a bold rapture of self-presenta- 
tion. 

In other places of Areopagitica, and in other prose works of the 1640s, 
he images books in further ways, sometimes bizarre, but unfailingly ener- 
getic. Books may be monsters, sinners, what we see or hear, persons. 
Judgement, divine or human records, idlers, meats and viands, a diocese, a 
punishment. For Milton, as for Goethe, books enter into any life-relation, 
and may image any.^ Books, and writers, are Milton's heroes, as when he 
idealizes London itself, war-ready because it holds so many writers (equat- 
ing the "pens and heads" of "the mansion house of liberty" with the "anvils 
and hammers" of the "shop of war" as means towards "the approaching 
Reformation").^ 

II. Perceptions of Book-Form in the Prose, 1641-44 

Milton's heightened book- awareness received a more sidelong expression 
in his perception of book-/6>rm. While this is liveliest in imagery, as carica- 
ture, it also answers to a steadfast conviction of what books ought to be, and 
in fact are when unimpeded by human failings. He drubs his opponents by 
convicting them of maltreatment of such features as margins, title-pages and 
frontispieces; through this, however, we glimpse his ideas of the right form 
of the book itself, as object and idea. 

First, he berates writers who overcrowd their margins with scriptural 
citations. Such writers "blur" the margin, they "cram" it and "stuff it, as if 
this were cruelty to a defenceless creature, or an offence against readers' 
eyes. A glance at a page of one such writer, Robert Baillie, supports the 
complaint. On the page where Baillie attacks Milton by name, the biblical 
quotations make a bloated block, tight up against his exposition. '^ They so 
distract the reader, from text to citation, that the eye cannot travel forwards. 
Milton makes an aesthetic and functional point, of some importance for the 
welfare and future of the 'reading act itself. More often, he fulminates in 
moral and intellectual terms: such marginalia are "crutches," they inflict 
"gout and dropsy" on the margins; proof requires more than a margin 
"littered and overlaid with crude and huddled quotations." ^^ Milton is 
speaking combatively, and holds more against such writers than aesthetic 
misdemeanours — for example, seeing their over-reliance on cited authori- 
ties as a denial of free thought and gospel liberties. Yet the aesthetic 
perception is the starting-point and figuring of his scorn, as much as to say. 



John K. Hale / Books and Book-Form in Milton / 67 



"Agree with me that the page suffers an obtuse physical disfigurement, and 
hence also dismiss the page's contents as obtuse." Is there not some implicit 
perception that readers have rights, such as the right to a legible and 
eye-pleasing page of print? 

If margins might not merit such fervent defending, Milton makes a 
stronger defence more strongly with title-pages, lambasting all Imprimaturs. 
If a single Imprimatur is disgusting, think what five will do to Milton's moral 
nostrils: 

Sometimes five Imprimaturs are seen together dialogue- wise in the Piatza of one Title-page, 
complementing [sic] and ducking each to other with their shav'n reverences. 

The imprimaturs become Italian clerics, bowing obsequiously to one 
another, as if the title-page were spiritually captive in Rome. The 
imprimaturs intrude on the book itself, its thought. Far from commending it, 
they put it at disadvantage. And nowhere do they do this more than in a 
context of teaching and learning: "when every acute reader upon the first 
sight of a pedantick licence, will be ready with these words to ding the book 
a coits distance from him. "^^ This captures, as a cartoon does, the actual 
moment when the intrusion turns a reader from absorption to rejection, and 
the book from a joy to a mere throwable thing. The licenser spoils the 
learning, alienates the reader, and saps the teacher's authority ("I hate a pupil 
teacher"). 

Whereas this ridicule of Italian authoritarianism is good-humoured, it 
was soon afterwards that Milton met the same intrusion at home, more 
angrily. An English licenser, Joseph Caryl, not merely put his imprimatur to 
a work attacking one of Milton's divorce writings, but added praise of it, 
because in his view it "answered" Milton's case "and with good reason 
confuted it." Hotly, Milton replied that the licenser was 

not contented now to give his simple Imprimatur but brings his chair into the Title-leaf; 
[and] there sits and judges up or judges down what book hee pleases. ^^ 

He sounds less indignant about another feature of books, indexes. 
Literal indexes, in the plain sense of word-lists, infringe readers' rights: they 
distort readers into "the ferrets and mousehunts [weasels] of an Index." ^^ 
The point concerns how readers should, and should not, use books to learn 
with. Indexes in the other sense, lists of books banned by heavy orthodoxy, 
arouse ire: they are "expurgatorious."^^ The adjective is a coinage, and may 
have as a conative aspect the expurgator's itch to ban, or be hinting that a 
reformed nation should have thrown out this Catholic practice along with 
the doctrine of Purgatory. 



68 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



The tone of each image varies, according to the occasion and audience 
of each prose work; the purport, however, remains constant, that books are 
the life and health of the mind, not lightly to be banned or burned by 
authority. Such authority is perceived with anger or ridicule. One last 
quotation shows Milton ridiculing. Whereas the angry Juvenal had asked 
who would censor the censors, Milton makes the point in a homely, humor- 
ous image, of a regiment of snoops pausing suspiciously in front of a shop 
window: 

The Windows also, and the Balcone's, must be thought on, there are shrewd books, with 
dangerous Frontispices set to sale; who shall prohibit them, shall twenty licensers?'^ 

He sarcastically sympathizes with the functionaries, faced with so many 
seductive title-pages, displayed like harlots on balconies. 

III. Self-Perception through Books and Book-Form: Milton's 
Poems, 1645 

Milton writes with such conviction and verve in the prose works of 1641-44 
because books and book-form have entered his sense of vocation. These 
polemics on hot issues are part of what he was bom for. But only part, and next 
— still very much nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita — he perceives books 
in a wider way. In editing his poems of 1623-44 for print, he considers his own 
works as if asking, "How shall I present myself as a poet in this book of mine?" 

None of the poems included in the volume was written for it, and most 
were not even recent. It looks back on a self accumulated, in part, by these 
poems — a poetic self never before acknowledged in print over his own 
name. Such is suggested, too, by a poem about the book after its publication, 
and his perception there of his book and himself. The full, elaborate prelim- 
inaries — those in English and those in Latin — show precisely the care 
Milton took with the impression made by the book as book; they challenge 
admiration yet mitigate any envy or charges of arrogance. Numerous features 
of book- form, by their originality and exactness, bear witness to a self-sum- 
marizing, self-presenting purpose. Not only is he aware of the act of self- 
editing, but he recognizes an emergent self through that distinct, retrospective 
act. 

Milton as self-editor gives the age at which some poems were com- 
posed, yet not in every case. The procedure enables him to excuse poems 
which are juvenile, like Elegia VII, or uncompleted as being "above the years 
he had when he wrote it," like the ode on the Passion. It enables him to take 
pride in what he did achieve even at those years ("done by the Author at 
fifteen years old"). We may applaud and enjoy the editorial balancing act. 



John K. Hale / Books and Book-Form in Milton / 69 

Equally, however, we note that poems equally early are presented without 
any plea in mitigation, to be read on their timeless merits: thus he begins his 
English poems with the Nativity Ode, closes them with Lycidas, and follows 
up hard with A Masque, given its own title-page and commendations. The 
placing of these major poems attests the editor's sense of what he is to be 
judged by, which poems are to be perceived as the self's writerly accom- 
plishment; thence is to come the reader's still provisional, but gathering, 
sense of an oeuvre. 

Of this sense, the English poems furnish only half. Milton sets Italian 
sonnets within his sequence of English ones — surprising his first readers 
into the perception that this self is multilingual in its accomplishment. And 
in the Poemata, with its distinctive ordonnance, a wider multilingual accom- 
plishment is to be inferred. They comprise a series of "Elegiac" (elegiac 
couplets, subdivided into an Ovidian series with palinode, then a series of 
epigrams). The "Sylvae" which follow emulate Statins as originator of this 
genre of mixed metres and modes; but Milton is his own man again, moving 
through acknowledged juvenilia (and three Greek poems when least 
expected) to a series of increasingly major hexameters. These being in 
Virgil's metre, and the last being saturated in Virgil's eclogues and ancient 
lament-poetry, vindicate the Virgilian appeal made on the title-page (to be 
discussed shortly). 

The poem Milton wrote to Bodley's Librarian, John Rouse, about his 
1645 volume confirms these inferences about his editorial action. It excuses 
and takes proper pride. It sees the poems as progeny: to be exact, an unusual 
because twin — bilingual — progeny. It glides from the past to the future. 
But the vate is futuro in a different sense now: the poet's future is assured of 
reputation, not if he surpasses these poems by later greater ones, but simply 
if the Poems reach Bodley. They will thus join all great and good books held 
there by Rouse as an Ion, guardian of books as a holy treasure. The lightness 
of tone does not conceal Milton's pleasure in knowing that his poems — 
along with his works of prose controversy — will now be conserved in 
Bodley as the centre of Oxford, as the centre of the intellectual life. 

The double preliminaries show the same combination of defence and 
appeal, as much as to say "only give me a hearing." Yet some anxiety is 
shown on this score. The first title-page cites Virgil, to acknowledge the 
classic exemplar. But since this was customary, we notice the particular tag: 

Baccare frontem 



Cingite, ne vati noceat mala lingua futuro 

[Bind my forehead with baccar, lest an evil tongue harm the future poet.] 

(Virgil, Eclog. 7; my translation) 



70 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

No one knows what plant "baccare" refers to, nor what Milton thought it 
referred to. Antidote to the evil eye, or tongue, it must be: Milton sees ways 
in which his bold volume may backfire. As he begins the quotation after the 
lines (25-26) where Virgil's singer Thyrsis demands praise from his audi- 
ence of shepherds, Milton's is not a simple appeal for applause. 

Book- form contributes similarly. The size and length and scope, the 
shape and size of page, are none of them lavish. They enliven the basic form, 
as when Italian verses are given in italics, or the balances are recognized 
(English against Latin; Elegiae against Sylvae within the Latin; Comus 
against the rest within the vernaculars).^^ The self presented is an alert, 
book-conscious persona, creative and emphatic in exploiting the medium of 
print. 

Books "compose the self . . . / For if we use / Words to maintain the 
actions that we choose, / Our words, with slow defining influence, / Stay to 
mark out our chosen lineaments." ^^ A book may help truth, and bring 
reputation, but — in between these most impersonal and most personal of 
motives — it implies the author's intellectual self-picture, his standards of 
judgement, self-criticism, self-awareness. 

IV. Milton as a Reader, to 1645 

Milton had a physical problem with perceiving: he inherited bad eyesight 
from his mother's side, and made it worse through years of late reading by 
candlelight. But, his father being a scrivener, Milton lived among papers and 
knew their contractual power. He read diverse systems of symbols: music, 
early, and besides the usual alphabet those of Greek, Hebrew, and Syriac. 
Languages comprised a large portion of his reading, from school onwards: 
his reading was for learning and by access to originals. He read to a system, 
excerpting into a commonplace book, Greek and Latin wordbooks, and 
notebooks for theology, ethics, politics. For a few texts he annotated as he 
read, writing in the margins, for instance, of his copies of Greek poets. Of 
all his reading acts, these marginal ones reveal most: we look over his 
shoulder as he grapples with the complexities of emendation or sense or 
reference, in active dialogue with previous editors or Euripides himself. 
These reading acts, repeated over two decades for the Aratus and Euripides 
copies, are not done for any further purpose but for philaletheia, truth's 
sake.^^ Milton's perception of books is here at its most intrinsic, is most itself 
— un violated by preconceptions or the needs of occasion. 

So much for his acts of reading. What about his earliest acts of writing? 
He came very early to an acute self-awareness of himself interacting with 
books in the act of writing. In the Nativity Ode, for example, written on his 



John K. Hale / Books and Book-Form in Milton / 7 1 

twenty-first birthday, he envisages the poem as his gift to the baby, and 
himself running to lay it at Christ's "blessed feet" before the Magi can give 
their more impressive gifts. The trope of proud modesty anticipates its 
counterpart in editing Poems, 1645. Similarly, in his Italian sonnets he makes 
a central motif of himself in the act of writing in Italian to praise an Italian 
lady. If this is a foretaste of the intense subjectivity of his best work, his 
egotistical sublime, it emerges early in these acts of book-awareness, which 
for their part help to give it varied forms of expression. 

Whereas such awareness is a constant in Milton's life, we move now to 
a puzzle, one which, whilst appearing minor, leads to a seminal perceptual 
change. His Latin poems are little read nowadays, and indeed are for the 
most part early and minor. They show him again aware of himself, as in 
personifying a verse-letter which is to speak for its "father" to the friend 
addressed, or laying Latin itself in the grave of his closest friend. 

Till the crisis of church and state in the 1640s Milton thought of writing 
as something done for friends and them only, although friends included any 
cultivated persons who might solicit or be given copies of a poem in 
manuscript. Till 1642 Milton prints, if he prints, anonymously, and his poems 
circulate most often in manuscript. So like Spenser in his ideals and religious 
stance, Milton is unlike Spenser in his perception of print. And when Milton 
does discover print and put his name on title-pages, he still does it for 
individual reasons — not for money, but to propagate his views, to silence 
canards about the authorship. Especially, he does it in order to place his 
complimentary copies strategically. He targets friends, native and Italian, 
and librarians (Bodley's and the King's). Rouse asked for the prose works, 
and Milton added the poems. Young was sent both kinds. A set of the 
pamphlets went to Hanover.^ ^ 

These changes in Milton's conception of "publication" have an element 
of the contingent. He first puts his name to an antiprelatical work in 1 642, 
and again to a divorce tract in 1 644, to defy the opposition's dark insinuations 
about its author. But having broken cover, he discovers author-status with a 
vengeance. Areopagitica may have been a landmark, in that an "oration" to 
Parliament printed anonymously might look quaint or pusillanimous. A little 
earlier, he had published the open letter to Hartlib ''Of Education.'' And so 
to Poems of Mr John Milton, Both English and Latin, 1645, in which print 
fashions the multilingual self. 



72 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

V. After 1645 

The next twenty years need not be followed in detail. Milton appeared in 
print by name mainly when defending Parliament, whether internally in 
English or in Latin to Europe. Yet at times he stayed anonymous. 

The more important fact of the period is that Milton went blind. This 
did not at first propel him back to an enforced otium, cultivated leisure. But 
it certainly affected how he perceived books and book-form. He says 
something about this in his letters, how books have proved to be his weapon 
of Telephus — the cause of his sickness, which yet he does not blame. And 
since the myth of Telephus hinges on the ending, in which the weapon of his 
injury heals him, Milton means that books caused his blindness yet remain 
life and healing to him.^^ 

Moving from the obvious to the speculative, can we say how blindness 
affected his reading? Avid, lifelong readers who have gone blind record how 
they still devour print as best they may. They often rely on teams of readers. 
I am sure Milton did this, having both general and specialist readers to keep 
him going (respectively, his daughters, and the man who came to read him 
from the Hebrew Bible daily). On the other hand, reading aloud is different 
from one's own reading — much slower, compelling a different kind of 
attention. Milton may have settled for hearing his favourite authors most: 
the Hebrew Bible, and the poets mentioned. But he also ran a sort of 
think-tank or laboratory, in which groups of ex-pupils or other helpers read 
texts to him and wrote down his responses at dictation, in pursuance of large 
semi-collaborative projects like the two dictionaries or the De Doctrina 
Christiana. He kept up his reading, and he kept up the many purposes of his 
reading. 

If anything, blindness made him more of a writer than a reader. He kept 
writing, even if it meant using amanuenses who knew no Latin and to whom 
he must dictate the individual letters of each word.^^ Many writers, though, 
as they gain confidence from publication and reputation, read less and write 
more. The period 1660 to his death is the period of all three of his greatest 
poems — the works which in the last analysis make Milton Milton — 
together with his History of Britain, which won him equal contemporary 
reputation, and a rapid succession of smaller works and revisions. In the last 
seven years of his life, Milton's study was a powerhouse. 

VI. 1660-74 

Paradise Lost, notwithstanding its origins in the 1640s, is mainly the work 
of Milton's blindness. Does it show any signs of a changed attitude towards 



John K. Hale / Books and Book-Fomi in Milton / 73 



books, and especially physical book-form? There are changes, indeed sur- 
prises. 

The books of epic predecessors are of course part of the poem's massive 
allusiveness; but the books are mentioned as authors, not objects. Tellingly, 
the Bible itself, the "book" par excellence^^ and Milton's source for so much 
in the epic, is not referred to by name nor yet as "the Book." Instead, on the 
one hand, the constituent books of the Bible are called its "voices"; and on 
the other hand, the books of God are the old metaphorical, tropical ones.^^ 
That is, the book of the Apocalypse is adduced as the "voice" of John (4.1), 
while the "book of God" is either the "book of knowledge fair" (3.57) or 
"heaven" (8.67). Books as such, book-form, even the Bible as revealed truth, 
do not stand out in the texture: heaven's "frontispiece" means its portal, in 
the older architectural sense of the word. Blindness made Milton, if anything, 
more vocal, more oral. Naturally so, too, since he is emulating the blind 
Homer, and relying on the voice of his Muse to lift him from the despondency 
of outward failure (3.26-55) and the "depressing" of his "wing" (9.45-46). 

This should not be misunderstood as a forswearing of the book-love 
illustrated earlier. Far from it. The proofs of the poem were assiduously 
corrected, more than for earlier works. Milton altered, revised, expanded, 
and cared for his poem through serial improvements up to his death.^^ If he 
organized the proof-reading differently, blindness may actually have helped: 
a writer who is blind must insist on the slow, collaborative reading-aloud 
which sighted writers short-circuit at their peril. 

The epic's limited use of book-tropes may solve or ease a controversy 
about its intended readership. If the only explicit references to books in the 
poem are to the older book-tropes, that might mean the poem looks back- 
wards, to the common stock of topoi deriving from antiquity, accessible to 
any educated reader. It would do so without losing the other desired reader- 
ship, the plain Protestants (having a bad time of it, like Milton, under the 
Restoration), because they would pick up the particular allusions well 
enough; besides, Milton makes sure they do, by perpetual pithy glossing 
within his text. The poem is learned yet accessible, not an outlet for arcane 
theology. 

As regards the traditional book-topoi, Milton does not lean on them: he 
appropriates them, and renews them, with the verve and flair we expect from 
the poet who was always so aware of books and of himself in the act of 
making them. Thus he does not baldly equate Nature with the book of God, 
lost to him through physical blindness. He says this only as part of making 
the topos spiritual, dynamic, and his own. The "book of knowledge fair" 
(3.47) uses the topos of nature as God's book, but the word order ascribes 



74 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

beauty to the book and the knowledge, by placement of the adjective "fair." 
The pun is the act of appropriating, imitatio become energizing. Again, when 
the book becomes a "universal blank" to the blind poet (48), that means both 
a literal empty white page and an unmeaning void. And why blindness 
matters is because it spells loss of wisdom, "wisdom at one entrance quite 
shut out" (50). Sight, and the reading of this book, are never so well perceived 
as in the mental act of knowing them lost. Again, when Adam is told that 
"heaven / Is as the book of God before thee set" (8.66-67), this says more 
than that the natural world is the book of God. For Milton here, heaven is 
the book of God visible as eternity, the sublimity at the heart of astronomy. 
So the age-old topoi are rejuvenated. 

Books receive a different sort of mention in Paradise Regained. Mes- 
siah quotes Ecclesiasticus, to the effect that "many books / Are wearisome" 
(3.321-22), and deplores a reader "Deep-versed in books and shallow in 
himself (327). The first critique alters the Bible, which had said '"Of making 
many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh."^^ 
The other points to the occupational hazard of writers and readers. Was 
Milton thinking of his own unfinished or futile projects? If so, which ones? 

There is much else about these final years which is surprising or unclear. 
Why did he not finish and publish his dictionary projects? Why, rather, did 
he finish his Grammar and Logic? Why did he change publisher so often? 
Why is the History of Britain a. larger and fmer volume than his other books 
(excepting the Defences, as paid for by the Government)? Did he positively 
favour cheap plain little books, as more vendible and accessible, or did he 
care only for the thought-content of a book? He certainly corrects the 
pointing of his Latin poems in 1673, in a case where pointing ruins mean- 
ing. ^^ The "Errata" there suggest an author who is vigilant whenever mean- 
ing is concerned, yet then only. Is print, for Milton, communication first and 
last? Does clear and direct communication outweigh beauty and every other 
consideration? Always or sometimes? 

VII. Conclusions, Speculations and Further Questions 

To attempt first some answers to the questions I began by posing: Milton 
seems especially aware of books, as objects, media, symbols, expressions of 
selfhood. In writing of them he makes us similarly aware. This is a constant. 
But he is also transitional — among the last writers to use the older 
book-tropes and the first to create new, print-based ones. Working from a 
still largely oral and manuscript culture, he seeks as a humanist to perform 
all the roles expected of a latterday Cicero, yet uses print to try out new 
personae, new voices. And he addresses very diverse auditories — to gain 



John K. Hale / Books and Book-Form in Milton / 75 



fame among an elite, to influence public policy, and to teach at all levels. He 
has grasped the flexibility of print as medium. 

Though class-bound in many assumptions, he uses print to widen his 
readership and influence — and most in Paradise Lost. In a similar spirit, 
his advocacy of freedom involves print, as a source and condition of other 
freedoms: freedoms are connected. 

He is the most eloquent celebrator of books as such, till Italo Cal vino. 
Though he blamed them for ruining his eyesight, he was not angry with them, 
for he likened books in the broadest sense ("literis") to the weapon of 
Telephus, "qui eo telo, quo vulneratus est, sanari posteanon recusavit" [From 
the weapon which wounded him, he afterwards accepted healing]^^; and 
"afterwards" (postea) means not least in his late outpouring of printed books 
of all sorts, as an almost-completed presentation of a self and its life. 

Milton's perception of printed books is evidently greater when he is 
conducting controversy about and by means of books; for instance, he adjusts 
his register at such times not only to a coarser polemic but to a greater degree 
of book-related particularity. Yet he does this not merely in order to convince 
or to vivify, but in a way that is figurative. Book-details, on the one hand, 
figure by synecdoche or metonymy for whole books or their authors (and 
printers and backers and other affines in the mid-century book-wars). And 
book-details provide a teeming resource for metaphors, be they caricatures 
of the Papacy or symbols of the one good fight. Such figures achieved by 
exact detail are new. The book, on the other hand, is likely to carry with it 
older and more traditional connotations, especially in poems in higher 
registers. One can perhaps test and confirm this distinction, of the symbolic 
or topical use of the book from the printed book in its detail, by seeing how 
he presents his own first book of poems, in the Ode to Rouse. He refers to 
Poems, 1645 as "Gemelle . . . Liber," in which designation "Liber" continues 
the old or generic name but adapts the current trope or cliché of the book as 
"offspring" to the special "twin" birth (bilingualism) of his. ^^ By a different 
defamiliarization he then changes the classical term "frontes" — edges of 
the papyrus-roll at each end, the term used by Ovid and others — to "frondes" 
— the "leaves" of the contemporary (as yet unbound) book.^^ Milton, then, 
in his perception of the book is both ancient and modem. 

Finally, let us revert to Ernst Robert Curtius and his study of book-topoi. 
He speculates that the book "no longer possesses a unique, a felt, a conscious 
* life-relationship,' [and] could no longer possess it after the Enlightenment 
shattered the authority of the book and the Technological Age changed all 
the relations of life."^^ g^t when we look at the case of Milton some hundred 
years earlier, we find both continuity and innovation in the symbolism of the 



76 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 

book, as entering into diverse life-relations. Are we looking at a last late 
flowering, and a first symbolic particularity — early modem indeed? 

University ofOtago 

Notes 

1. J. W. Saunders, The Profession of English Letters (London: Routledge, 1964). 

2. D. F. McKenzie, "Speech — Manuscript — Print," Library Chronicle of the University of 
Texas at Austin 20 (1990): 86-109. 

3. Neil Fraistat, The Poem and the Book: Interpreting Collections of Romantic Poetry (Chapel 
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985); Louis L. Martz, Milton: Poet of Exile, 2nd 
ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986); John K. Hale, "Milton's Self-Presentation 
in Poems . . . 1645" Milton Quarterly 25.2 (1991): 37-48. 

4. Stella Revard, Milton and the Tangles ofNeaera's Hair: The Making of the 1645 Poems 
(Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997); and Stephen B. Dobranski in a series of 
essays, esp. "Letter and Spirit in WXion'sAreopagitica" Milton Studies 32 ( 1 995): 1 3 1 -52. 
See also the latter's Milton, Authorship, and the Book Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1999). 

5. D. F. McKenzie, "Printing in England from Caxton to Milton," in The Age of Shakespeare, 
vol. 2 of The New Pelican Guide to English Literature, ed. Boris Ford (London: Penguin, 
1982). 

6. Milton is quoted or cited from the Columbia edition, qua latest complete Milton: The Works 
of John Milton, gen. ed. Frank Allen Patterson, 18 vols. (New York: Columbia University 
Press, 1931-38), with Index (2 vols.; 1940). These are abbreviated henceforth to "Co/- 
Works" and ''ColWorksIndexr The passage in the text is ColWorks, 4: 297-98. 

7. Acts 17:22 (King James Version given). It has been doubted whether Paul's Areopagus 
comes into Milton's view, but I accept Ernest Sirluck's reasoning in his edition of 
Areopagitica for vol. 4 of Don M. Wolfe etal, eds.. Complete Prose Works of John Milton, 
8 vols. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953-82). The context in Acts 17 is of free 
speech, by a believer amongst the sceptical or superstitious, which concludes with the 
conversion of, amongst others, Dionysius the Areopagite (17:34). 

8. The images are drawn from ColWorks Index, entries from the 1 640s English prose. On books 
as a figuring of life-relations in the thought of Goethe, see E. R. Curtius, European 
Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: Harper & Row, 
1963), ch. 16, esp. pp. 303 and 347. 

9. ColWorks, 4: 340-41. 

10. Robert Baillie, A Dissuasive from the Errours of the Time (London: Samuel Gellibrand, 
1646), attacking Milton's Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1644). 

11. See the entries "margins" and "margent" in A Concordance to the English Prose of John 
Milton, gen. eds. Laurence Sterne and Harold H. Kollmeier (Binghamton, NY: MRTS, 
1985). 

12. ColWorks, 4: 304 

13. ColWorks, 4: 340-41 



John K. Hale / Books and Book-Form in Milton / 77 

14. ColWorks, 4: 238-39 (Colasterion, 1645). 

15. ColWorks, 3: 35 (Of Reformation, 1641). 

16. ColWorks, 3: 112 (Animadversions, 1641). 

17. ColWorks, 4: 311 (Areopagitica). 

18. Though not all of this is necessarily the author's idea, some if not most of it surely is. It 
may be the collaborative book-form perception of Milton and his printer. 

19. Thom Gunn, 'To Yvor Winters, 1955," in Poems 1950-1966: A Selection (London: Faber, 
1966), p. 22. 

20. I discuss these in John K. Hale, "Milton's Euripidean Marginalia: Their significance for 
Milton Studies," in Milton Studies 27 (1991): 23-35, and in ch. 4 of Milton's Languages: 
The Impact of Multilingualism on Style (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). 

21. See William Riley Parker, Milton: A Biography, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), 
p. 932. 

22. ColWorks, 12: 86 (Letter 21, cited more fully below). 

23. As he complains in Letter 31 of Epistulae Familiares (ColWorks, 12: 115). 

24. The history of usage of "Bublos" or "Biblion" in Greek traverses (i) document, (ii) book, 
(iii) a book as part of a larger work, and so (iv) the "books" which make up the Bible, e.g., 
Septuagint Malachi 12:9. Mark 12:26 has the "book of Moses," Philippians 4:3 the "Book 
of Life"; cf Psalms 69:28. 

25. He uses the vaguer word "records" to refer to biblical historiography (PL 12.513). 

26. See John K. Hale, "Paradise Lost: A Poem in Twelve Books, or Ten?", Philological 
Quarterly 74 (1995): 131-49. 

27. Ecclesiastes 12:12. 

28. In Quintum Novembris, 149-50 (ColWorks, 1.1: 248). 

29. ColWorks, 12: 86 (translation mine). 

30. "Ad Joannem Rousium," 1-2 (ColWorks, 1.1:316). 

3 1 . So Walter MacKellar, followed by Douglas Bush, A Variorum Commentary on the Poems 
of John Milton, vol. 1, ed. Douglas Bush (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), p. 
327. 

32. Curtius, p. 347. 



Reviews 
Comptes rendus 



François Rabelais. Œuvres romanesques (les cinq livres de Pantagruel). Édition 
en fac-dissimilé avec index sur CD-Rom, sous la direction de Marie-Luce 
Demonet. Poitiers, La Licorne, 1999. R 405. 

Si les éditions des œuvres de Rabelais sont pléthoriques, qu'elles soient critiques, 
annotées ou non, transposées en français moderne, voire bilingues, celle des Œuvres 
romanesques que vient de procurer l'équipe de Marie-Luce Demonet vient néan- 
moins occuper un créneau inexploité jusque-là. À mi-chemin entre le fac-similé pur 
et l'édition qui uniformise tout, orthographe, ponctuation, etc., le fac-dissimilé 
cherche à réunir le meilleur de deux mondes, en conservant la mise en page d'origine 
et en distinguant les « i » et les « j », de même que les « u » et les « v », interventions 
minimales désormais presque unanimement pratiquées dans l'édition de textes de 
la Renaissance française. Ce parti pris se veut un compromis entre fidélité et 
lisibilité. 

Fidélité, en effet, puisque ce fac-dissimilé donne à lire le texte rabelaisien 
dans la mise en page des éditions du XVP siècle les plus fiables (en cela, les 
éditeurs ont retenu les mêmes textes de base que Mireille Huchon dans son édition 
de la Pléiade, exception faite de la "Briefve declaration" et du Cinquiesme livre). 
Cette restitution de la présentation matérielle d'origine pourrait paraître une 
simple coquetterie de philologue. Néanmoins, elle fournit des indices précieux. 
Pour ne donner qu'un exemple, l'emplacement de la suscription et de la souscrip- 
tion dans les lettres révèle le rapport hiérarchique entre l'épistolier et son destina- 
taire. Or, dans certaines éditions modernes, ces éléments se retrouvent placés de 
façon arbitraire, au milieu ou à gauche de la page, suivant la justification du texte. 
On voit ainsi tout l'intérêt du fac-dissimilé qui dispense de consulter les éditions 
du XVP siècle, trop peu accessibles. On découvre dans les échanges épistolaires 
du Quart livre entre Gargantua et Pantagruel le renversement de la position des 
sus- et souscriptions, telle que préconisée par Pierre Fabri dans son Grant et vray 
art de pleine rhétorique (1521). 



Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, XXIII, 4 (1999) /79 



80 / Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 



Lisibilité enfin, puisque la dissimilation permet une consultation plus facile 
de l'index fourni sur CD-Rom avec l'édition imprimée. Cet index, disponible au 
format .rtf et .doc, permet d'effectuer tous les relevés d'occurrences souhaités, à 
partir du traitement de textes, ce qui offre la possibilité de recourir aux fonctions 
de recherche de ce logiciel et d'annoter l'index, pour peu qu'on le copie sur le 
disque dur. En dépit de sa taille (1,3 mégaoctets), cet index constitue une concor- 
dance maniable et personnalisable. 

Néanmoins, cette édition, du fait qu'elle ne comporte ni notes ni variantes, 
doit être utilisée comme un outil d'appoint, qui ne dispense pas de se reporter à 
une édition critique. Elle vient heureusement s'ajouter aux Électro-Chroniques y 
version numérisée du corpus rabelaisien, publiée en 1995 aux éditions Les Temps 
Qui Courent et malheureusement disponible seulement en version Macintosh, et à 
la concordance d'Equil-XVI consultable sur Internet (http://ancilla.unice.fr/rabe- 
lais.html). Si on complète ces instruments de travail par le fichier numérisé de 
l'édition procurée par Jean Martin en 1558, accessible sur le site de « Gallica 
Classique » de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France (http://gallica.bnf.fr/classi- 
que), on obtiendra une panoplie informatique presque complète à l'usage des 
rabelaisants, La seule réserve que l'on puisse formuler à propos de ce fac-dissimilé 
concerne la piètre qualité de la reproduction des vignettes, des bandeaux et des 
lettrines, dont les détails peuvent à peine être distingués. 

CLAUDE LA CHARITÉ, Université du Manitoba 



Marie de Goumay et l'Édition de 1595 des Essais de Montaigne. Actes du 
Colloque organisé par la Société Internationale des Amis de Montaigne les 9 et 
10 juin 1995, en Sorbonne. Réunis par Jean-Claude Amould. Paris, Champion, 

1996. R 246. 

Montaigne et Marie de Gournay. Actes du Colloque international de Duke 31 
mars-1^^ avril 1995. Réunis et présentés par Marcel Tetel. Paris, Champion, 

1997. R 294. 

Même si le lecteur, qui veut que l'attention critique se porte finalement sur Marie 
de Goumay en tant qu'auteur à part entière, restera toujours sur sa faim après la 
lecture de ces deux volumes, il serait injuste de reprocher à ces recueils d'avoir 
excessivement mis l'accent sur la relation entre elle et Montaigne. Les deux recueils 
sont explicitement organisés de façon à commémorer la publication par Marie de 
Goumay de l'édition de 1595 des Essais de Montaigne. Ainsi, ces deux livres 
réunissent des essais dont l'intérêt est essentiellement portée sur le travail d'édition 
de l'œuvre de Montaigne par Marie de Gournay, avec comme but secondaire, 
l'étude de certaines aspects des œuvres de ces deux auteurs dans la mesure où elles 
sont liées. 



Book Reviews / Comptes rendus / 81 



Le premier ouvrage, un recueil de 17 articles, met systématiquement Taccent 
sur les aspects du travail editorial de Gournay et sur sa relation avec l'auteur des 
Essais. Cet ouvrage qui est bien organisé se divise en trois parties. La première 
traite des principes aussi bien que des problèmes de l'édition auxquels se sont 
trouvés confrontés Gournay, mais aussi les éditeurs de nos jours. La mise au point 
de Blum quant aux faits connus de la filiation de l'édition de 1595 et de son rapport 
à l'Exemplaire de Bordeaux, est concise et utile. De même, l'essai de Millet sur 
la fonction en évolution des Préfaces de Gournay aux Essais, met en lumière les 
modifications importantes avec lesquelles tous les lecteurs, et en particulier les 
éditeurs, de Gournay sont familiers. Un peu moins convaincantes, probablement 
à cause de leur nature forcément provisoire, sont les études effectuées par Tournon 
et Konstantinovic sur la ponctuation et les corrections mineures. 

La seconde partie de ce recueil réunit des essais sur le rapport entre Gournay 
et Montaigne tel que nous le révèlent leurs textes respectifs. Il est probablement 
inévitable que les amis de Montaigne continuent, malgré beaucoup de bonne 
volonté, à considérer Gournay avant tout comme la fille d'alliance ou l'ombre de 
Montaigne, ne voyant en elle qu'une dévouée si souvent inadéquate vulgarisatrice 
du maître. Dauvois-Lavialle et Losse enrichissent de remarques pertinentes l'ana- 
lyse de la relation textuelle des deux auteurs. L'excellent article de Berriot-Salva- 
dore a l'avantage de traiter leur rapport personnel comme le point de départ plutôt 
que comme la raison d'être de l'œuvre de Gournay. En contraste, l'interprétation 
catégorique de Keffer, qui caractérise la pratique éditoriale de Gournay de rigide, 
me paraît en elle-même plutôt monologique. 

La dernière section traite des pratiques éditoriales et créatrices de Gournay. 
De très bons articles méthodiques par Clément et Bichard-Thomine examinent la 
place de la théorie poétique de Gournay dans le contexte des arts poétiques des 
XVP et XVIP siècles, en particulier la Défense et illustration de la langue 
française. Arnould, et tout particulièrement Franchetti, entreprennent la tâche 
qu'on attend depuis trop longtemps de séparer les faits démontrables des idées 
reçues qui entourent l'œuvre de Gournay. Les deux auteurs, et surtout le dernier, 
font preuve d'une connaissance approfondie aussi bien des textes de Gournay que 
des meilleures analyses qui ont été faites à son sujet, connaissance malheureuse- 
ment souvent absente des études sur cette écri vaine. A ce propos, la première note 
de Franchetti souligne un point important en ce qui concerne la filiation de 
publications récentes relatives à Gournay, en confirmant la dette que presque tous 
les récents éditeurs de Gournay doivent à Marjorie Ilsley. L'ouvrage de cette 
dernière sur Gournay, bien que loin d'infaillible, reste le meilleur disponible, et 
mérite d'être révisé et mis, en traduction française, à la disposition de tous ceux 
qui n'ont consulté que l'étude beaucoup moins méticuleuse de Dezon- Jones. 

Ce second recueil de 12 essais contient moins d'essais, ce qui est compensé 
par le soin avec lequel ces derniers ont été sélectionnés. Comme le précédant, le 
livre commence par l'étude des pratiques éditoriales de Gournay des Essais de 
1595. L'excellente vue d'ensemble de la question par Simonin, qui traite des faits 



82 / Renaissance and Reformation